'Experienced' BlitzBoks head to Dubai
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Siviwe Soyizwapi will lead a vastly experienced Springboks squad, featuring a number of returning veterans at the Dubai leg of the Sevens World Series.
The 2019-2020 World Series gets underway tournament next weekend as the 2019/20 World Rugby Sevens Series kicks off.
The wing, who will run out in his 29th tournament for the BlitzBoks, has been named captain for the new season by coach Neil Powell.
He will take the field along several experienced and decorated players returning to the abbreviated version of the game at The Sevens Stadium.
Former Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla, Player of the Year nominee Rosko Specman and current SA Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Dylan Sage will return to the BlitzBoks.
Also back is Ruhan Nel, who will don the BlitzBok colours for the first time in a year, after he toured with the Springboks to Europe in November 2018.
Senatla, Sage and Nel return to the World Series after a year’s absence.
They will join second-year BlitzBoks in JC Pretorius and Kurt-Lee Arendse, who will take the field in BlitzBok colours for the first time in Dubai, having played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in last year’s tournament.
Ryan Oosthuizen, Chris Dry, Zain Davids, Selvyn Davids and Justin Geduld will again form the core of the team, with the latter nearing the 1000 points mark in the World Series.
Powell said selection was tough, especially as their preparations are well on track.
“I think we are better prepared compared to the same time last year,” said Powell.
“We had warm-up tournaments in Germany, Kenya and England and everyone had a good run in at least one of those. Selection was tough, as most of the regulars are available for the opening tournament.”
Players such as Werner Kok, who just returned from Toulouse where he was a medical joker, and Hacjivah Dayimani have been named in the Academy side that will also play in Dubai to get some valuable game time, Powell explained.
Academy graduate Christi Grobbelaar will travel as 13th player and if called upon, will make his debut in the World Series.
“We had a poor start in Dubai last year and it took us a while to recover from that,” said Powell.
“We can’t promise anything this time around, but I am pretty sure the effort will be there and if that is the case, we will be very competitive.”
The squad won the tournament in Germany and were losing finalists in Kenya and England, with Powell adding: “Those results were good for us, because it removed any complacency we might have had. The margins between the teams in the World Series are so small that one bad game will punish you. We will be very aware of that.”
Soyizwapi took over the captaincy for the last four tournaments last season after Philip Snyman got injured.
The Maclear-born player said he is comfortable in his new role.
“We have a number of experienced players in the squad, which makes my job much easier. The leadership group in the team is also settled and that helps a lot,” said Soyizwapi.
“We have prepared well and worked hard to be ready for this. The first tournament is normally one of the toughest out there and everybody is still fresh and eager to make their mark, so every match is a real battle.”
South Africa face England, Spain and Kenya in Pool D of the tournament, while World Rugby Sevens Series champions Fiji will face France, Argentina and Japan in pool A. In pool B USA, Australia, Scotland and newcomers Ireland will battle it out. New Zealand, Samoa, Canada and Wales are in pool C.
* Meanwhile Darren Adonis and Dayimani will debut for the Academy team in Dubai.
Adonis was part of the Currie Cup-winning Free State Cheetahs side, while Dayimani ran out in Super Rugby with the Lions earlier this year, but will get their first taste of Sevens in a side laden with experienced players.
Academy coach Marius Schoeman included two former Sevens Players of the Year – Kok and Cecil Afrika, along with South Africa’s most experienced BlitzBok, Branco du Preez.
Kok recently returned from a stint in France, where he played for Toulouse in the Top 14, while Afrika has fully recovered from a post-season operation on his bicep.
Afrika (1440 points) and Du Preez (1302 points) top the all-time point-scoring list for the BlitzBoks in the World Series, but for Schoeman, current form and execution on the day will hold sway when they face the Rambling Jesters, French Military and Russia Development in their pool matches.
“We are very excited to see how Hacjivah and Darren will go,” said Schoeman.
“I last coached Hacjivah in his final year at school and Darren has shown all the attributes we expected when we contracted him. It is also great to have Malcolm Jaer back in the mix after his recent experiences in the Guinness PRO 14 with the Toyota Cheetahs.”
Schoeman said the depth of the wider BlitzBoks squad can be seen in the selection of numerous capped players in the Academy side.
“The Academy’s role is to assist the BlitzBoks in their needs for the World Series, so to include players such as James Murphy, Impi Visser, Angelo Davids, Dewald Human, Mfundo Ndhlovu and Stedman Gans, in order to get game time, was no problem,” Schoeman said.
“The World Series is the bigger picture and with the 2020 Olympics also part of the programme this season, we need to make sure our squad depth is good, and players are on form.”
Gans will lead the side in Dubai.
“Stedman has been identified as a future leader and this will be a good opportunity for him to grow in that role,” Schoeman said.
Meanwhile, two Academy players, Divan Enslin and Qamani Kota, have been given permission to play for the Princess Charlene Foundation Sevens Invitational side at the same tournament.
“It is an opportunity for them as well to be exposed to international competition, another one of our objectives at the Academy,” Schoeman said.
BlitzBoks: Chris Dry, Ryan Oosthuizen, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, JC Pretorius, Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain), Selvyn Davids, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Christi Grobbelaar.
Academy: Hacjivah Dayimani, James Murphy, Impi Visser, Angelo Davids, Werner Kok, Branco du Preez, Dewald Human, Malcolm Jaer, Darren Adonis, Cecil Afrika, Mfundo Ndhlovu, Stedman Gans (captain).