Johannesburg – South Africa's swimmers will use next week's Aquatic Super Series in Perth, to gauge where they are ahead of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July.
The team will be spearheaded by Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos, who is likely to feature in all the events in Glasgow later this year.
Speaking on the team's departure on Sunday, Le Clos said while it was too early in the season to view this gala as a dress rehearsal for the Commonwealth, he would nevertheless use it to gauge where he is in the medley events in particular.
“I am not going to panic if I go slow or if I go fast, it is about racing more and January is always a hard month to race in, after we've had a bit of a break,” le Clos said.
“At the same time everyone is going to try beat me in the 200m butterfly, so I am going to have to win that race.”
In the medley events Le Clos will come up against three of the world's best swimmers, Australia's Thomas Fraser-Holmes, 400m individual medley (IM) world champion Daiya Seto and teen sensation Kosuke Hagino of Japan.
Hagino, the Olympic 400m IM silver medallist came within a second of breaking Ryan Lochte's world short-course record at a local meeting in Japan last week.
Le Clos said the 400m IM would be the most important event of the gala.
“I just want to see where I am, I've really been working hard on my breaststroke, it needs to come right,” he said.
“I am excited to race, I wasn't at this event last year and it is going to be a busy year for me.”
The 21-year-old said if he wanted to create his own legacy and get out of the shadow of “the kid that beat Michael Phelps”, it would mean entering as many races as possible.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Le Clos won the 200m butterfly and the 400m individual medley, and collected silver in the 4x100m medley and two bronze medals in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle.
Le Clos could possibly be targetting six individual medals at this year's Commonwealth Games, and the two medley events will be high on his wish list.
A tussle with the two Japanese medley specialists would give Le Clos the perfect opportunity to gauge where he is in these events.
Meanwhile, Le Clos will be backed by swimming partner Myles Brown, who reached the 400m freestyle final at his first world championship in Barcelona last year, where he finished in sixth place.
Brown later went on to break the African and South African records in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events at the opening leg of the Fina World Cup Series in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
He returned from the World Cup series with five gold medals, eight silver and five bronze medals.
“We've had a couple of tough weeks of training ... and it is going to take a lot to step up and race against these guys in Australia,” Brown said.
“We don't really know what to expect but hopefully it is good preparations for Commonwealth and set up some good performances for the rest of this year.”
National swimming coach Graham Hill said the gala plays an important part in South Africa's plan with an eye on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“We are keeping a close eye on them, we are not expecting the juniors to go there and beat world champions, but we are asking them to perform the best they can perform and try and improve,” said Hill.
“It is a tough road ahead, two years (to the Olympic Games) it is going to come a lot earlier than everyone thinks.
“I honestly believe that by 2015 we'll have a good idea of who is going to Rio in 2016.”
Olympian Karin Prinsloo, 24, is the most senior women's swimmer and a lot would be expected from her in Perth.
Prinsloo will be swimming the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle, the 100m and 200m backstroke and all the relays.
Men: Myles Brown, Ryan Coetzee, Jarred Crous, Charl Crous, Clayton Jimmie, Chad le Clos, Caydon Muller, Darren Murray, Luke Pendock, Christopher Reid, Daniel Ronaldson, Ayrton Sweeney, Calvyn Justus, Mark Matthew.
Women: Erin Gallagher, Leheste Kemp, Justin Ann Macfarlane, Trudi Maree, Rita Naude, Kyna Pereira, Karin Prinsloo, Marlies Ross, Tatjana Schoenmaker, Nathania van Niekerk, Rene Warnes.
Open Water: Men: Troyden Prinsloo, Daniel Marais – Sapa