South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) President Gideon Sam has said the country's athletes will use this year's African Games in Morocco's capital Rabat as a "benchmark" on their road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
It has been announced that South Africa will be represented by 153 athletes and officials at the 12th edition of the continental event, which is scheduled to take place from August 19 to 31.
Of the 26 sports on the programme, the athletes will compete in 11 – archery, athletics, badminton, beach volleyball, canoeing, cycling, judo, swimming, table tennis, tennis and weightlifting.
"The African Games is a very important event in our calendar – the highest pinnacle of competition in the continent," Sam said.
"As it comes a year before Olympics, it is a benchmark for our athletes on their road to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games."
Sam admitted that due to financial constraints faced by SASCOC, the size of the athlete delegation is lower than the normal number of almost 300.
"Though the team is lean, it is a strong team of experienced athletes and we mostly included the athletes who will use these Games as a qualifier for Olympic Games," he said.
"Take these Games with the seriousness they deserve and give it your all as you will face much more competition in Tokyo.
"Congratulations to the team on your selection and we wish you well in Morocco."
As usual at the African Games, South Africa's biggest contingent will come from athletics with a total of 38 athletes, followed by swimming with a total of 24 athletes.
Antonio Alkana and Lindsay Hanekom, 110 metres and 400m hurdlers respectively, will spearhead the men’s athletics team, while 400m hurdler Zenéy van der Walt and javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen will head the women’s equivalent.
The four athletes are ranked first in Africa in their respective events.
Leading a strong canoeing team will be Bridgitte Hartley, the London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist in the women's sprint K1 500m competition.
Swimming also boasts an experienced side with the likes of Michael Houlie, flag bearer and men's 50m breaststroke gold medallist at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games and men's 4x100m medley relay bronze medallist at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In addition, Gold Coast 2018 bronze medallist Mona Pretorius will be part of the weightlifting team.
At the 2015 African Games in Congo's capital Brazzaville, South Africa won a total of 122 medals – 41 golds, 41 silvers and 40 bronzes – to finish third in the medal table behind first-placed Egypt and runners-up Nigeria.