BlitzBoks reveal Branco du Preez's replacement
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Former Boland Kavaliers standout, Jaiden Baron, has been named in the South Africa Sevens squad that will travel to Australasia to contest the NZ Sevens and Sydney Sevens tournaments later this month.
The New Zealand event takes place in Hamilton on 21-22 January, with the Australian tournament a week later in what will be the fourth and fifth editions of the 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Baron was included in the final training squad for the Cape Town Sevens last month and although he missed out on the final 13 named then, he will now get his chance as BlitzBoks coach, Sandile Ngcobo, made four changes to the team that finished fourth at Cape Town Stadium.
Muller du Plessis and JC Pretorius have since left the squad to pursue opportunities in XVs, while Branco du Preez retired from international sevens after Cape Town and all needed to be replaced, with Baron, Selvyn Davids and Shaun Williams stepping into that breach.
Baron is a straight swop for Du Preez and will play in the sweeper position. The 25-year-old hails from Prince Alfred Hamlet outside of Ceres and has been outstanding for Boland in the Currie Cup First Division, where he was named player of the year and was the leading try-scorer in 2022, scoring 12 tries in nine matches. The scrumhalf joined the SA Sevens A squad after that and made an immediate impression, performing well when the side travelled to the Dubai Sevens in December.
Ngcobo was pleased to see Baron in the squad.
“We actually scouted Jaiden pre-Covid to join our Academy, but he had a shoulder injury and was out for a year, ” Ngcobo said.
“Then Covid came and stalled everything. Jaiden played really well for Boland last year and this time around, he could join us.
“He did very well in training, and we wanted to add more playmaking to our backs, something he can certainly do. He is also extremely fast, no wonder he goes by the nick name of “Die Wind” (The Wind) and is not scared to tackle. I am really looking forward to what he will bring.”
Davids, the leading playmaker in the team, missed both the Dubai and Cape Town legs due to injury and his return will be much anticipated, whilst Williams made the last of his seven appearances in Los Angeles in August last year in the final tournament of the 2022 series, but then picked up an injury that ruled him out for the rest of the year.
“Selvyn is obviously one of the best, but picked up a knee strain after Hong Kong and we wanted to have him fit for the 2023 part of the season, so he did rehab rather than play in Dubai and Cape Town. Shaun is also a great player, so versatile and he has emerged as one of the leaders in the squad and his speed will benefit the backs no doubt.”
In a straight swop Christie Grobbelaar, who missed selection in Dubai and Cape Town, comes in for James Murphy amongst the forwards in the other change to the squad.
“We are looking to build a particular breed of forwards and Christie fits that mould. He is fast and skilful and can play at high pace in all six matches of a tournament.”
South Africa will open the tournament on Saturday, 21 January, with a pool D clash against Canada before matches against Spain and Argentina later in the day.
The Blitzboks, currently co-leaders in the World Series, will travel to New Zealand on Saturday.
Blitzboks squad: Ryan Oosthuizen, Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain), Christie Grobbelaar, Shaun Williams, Masande Mtshali, Shilton van Wyk, Darren Adonis, Dalvon Blood, Jaiden Baron, Ricardo Duarttee