Vantage Black Sticks Mens head coach Darren Smith has named his side to compete at the FIH World League Semi Final in South Africa next month.

The Kiwis are set to take on some of the worlds best hockey teams at the tournament, which runs from 9-23 July in Johannesburg.

The side is steeled by the return of several key players following a season of club hockey in Europe with Shea McAleese, Blair Tarrant, Hugo Inglis, Nic Woods, Jacob Smith, Marcus Child and Jared Panchia all back in black for the first time this year.

The tournament also marks the first taste of international hockey since the Rio Olympic Games for talented 19-year-old Hayden Phillips who has now fully recovered from an ankle injury.

Experienced defender Nick Haig also comes back into the fray after suffering a broken foot during the home test series against Pakistan earlier this year.

Several players were not considered through injury or unavailability including Simon Child, James Coughlan, Blair Hilton and Brad Read.

Coach Smith said the final selections were extremely tough with the competition for spots high among the squad.

"There were some tough calls and some extremely good players missed out, but thats a great problem to have as it shows there is some depth within the squad," he said.

"We are looking forward to the challenge of the World League Semi Final, it will be a high pressure environment and we know that we will need to be at our peak to get the results needed."

The Black Sticks are joined in Pool A by reigning world champions Australia, Spain, Japan and France.

Pool B sees Rio 2016 silver medallists Belgium take on Rio bronze medallists Germany, reigning African champions South Africa, Ireland and Egypt.

Ten teams will take part in two Semi Final tournaments, with the other Mens event being held in London. Results across both Semi Finals will determine contenders for the 2017 Hockey World League Final, while the top 10 finishers gain qualification for the 2018 Hockey World Cup. Both events will be hosted in Bhubaneswar, India.

Teams will also be awarded FIH World Ranking points from the World League Semi Final, which could prove crucial in relation to qualification for future events.

New Zealands opening game at the tournament is against France at 10pm on Sunday 9th July (NZ time). All Vantage Black Sticks games will be broadcast live on SKY Sport.


- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Hockey NZ