Callow Blitzboks for Hong Kong
The Blitzboks‚ as promised‚ will field their most inexperienced team since the inception of the HSBC World Sevens Series nearly 20 years ago‚ for next month’s Hong Kong tournament.
Traditionally the crown jewel of the World Series‚ Hong Kong is has been placed down the priority list for South Africa‚ who are competing at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast a week later.
Priority has been given to defending the gold medal the Blitzboks won at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
So the squad for Hong Kong‚ the one tournament on the 10-leg World Series that the Blitzboks haven’t won‚ will include five uncapped players and not a single player with 10 or more World Series appearances.
Dewald Human will captain the Springbok Sevens squad and is one of six players who were part of the Blitzboks combination that won the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in the 2016/17 season.
Heino Bezuidenhout‚ Mosolwa Mafuma‚ James Murphy‚ Rhyno Smith and Mfundo Ndhlovu will all make their Springbok Sevens debuts in Hong Kong.
Ryan Oosthuizen‚ Zain Davids‚ Marco Labuschagne‚ Selvyn Davids‚ Muller du Plessis and Stedman Gans all played in Vancouver earlier this month‚ where South Africa ended third in the sixth tournament in the series. Human last played for the Blitzboks in London in 2017.
All the debutants are contracted with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy and have progressed through the sevens structures.
“We certainly have a good mix of potential and experience in the squad and I believe we will be competitive in Hong Kong‚” said interim coach Marius Schoeman.
Regular Blitzbok coach Neil Powell and a number of regular players on the series will remain in Stellenbosch for the next 10 days as they prepare for the Commonwealth Games. Oosthuizen‚ Selvyn Davids and Zain Davids will join that squad in Australia after the Hong Kong Sevens.
For Schoeman‚ who debuted in Hong Kong as a Blitzbok in 2001‚ the tournament offers multiple opportunities for his squad: “Hong Kong delivers new faces and new stars every year and chances are very good that some of those will come out of this squad.
“This is a great opportunity for us to broaden the base of experience in the squad‚ to test our players on an iconic stage and most of all‚ to test our structures with a younger group of players.”
Schoeman says the absence of senior players provides the prospect of new stars emerging for South Africa.
“Any team will miss some of the names not here‚ but this is a wonderful opportunity for this group of players to show what they can do. I am very excited to be part of this venture‚” the former national sevens captain explained.
Human‚ who will take over as captain from Philip Snyman for this tournament‚ will add his name to an illustrious group of players to lead his country‚ which includes Schoeman‚ Powell‚ Frankie Horne‚ Kyle Brown‚ Mzwandile Stick‚ Mpho Mbiyozo‚ Jonathan Mokuena and Paul Treu.
“It is a great honour to lead the team‚” Human said.
“We have a strong leadership core in the squad‚ so I believe my job will be easy. We have good systems in place and if we execute that well‚ the results will come. We cannot wait to go out there and play.”
The Springbok Sevens team (with HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stats): 1. Heino Bezuidenhout (uncapped)‚ 2. Ryan Oosthuizen (6 tournaments‚ 23 matches‚ 20 points‚ 5 tries)‚ 3. Zain Davids (9 tournaments‚ 36 matches‚ 20 points‚ five tries)‚ 4. Marco Labuschagne (2 tournaments‚ 2 matches‚ 0 points)‚ 5. Mosolwa Mafuma (uncapped)‚ 6. James Murphy (uncapped)‚ 7. Selvyn Davids (3 tournaments‚ 15 matches‚ 21 points‚ three tries)‚ 8. Dewald Human (captain; 2 tournaments‚ 7 points‚ 1 try)‚ 9. Rhyno Smith (uncapped)‚ 10. Stedman Gans (8 tournaments‚ 30 matches‚ 20 points‚ 4 tries)‚ 11. Muller du Plessis (2 tournaments‚ 8 matches‚ 5 points)‚ 12. Mfundo Ndhlovu (uncapped)‚ 13. Sandile Ngcobo* (6 tournaments‚ 20 matches‚ 4 tries) *Official replacement player