Blitzboks begin series depleted of key players
The Blitzboks will go into the opening stages of the 2018-19 HSBC World Sevens Series shorn of key players through injury and XVs commitments.
Coach Neil Powell used last season to build depth when they were involved in the Commonwealth Games and the Sevens World Cup on top of their World Series commitments.
The foundations laid by using 28 players last season will certainly help this year as the team look to plug some sizeable gaps in their personnel roster.
Record try-scorer Seabelo Senatla‚ dual XVs and sevens Springbok Kwagga Smith‚ Dylan Sage‚ Ruhan Nel‚ Rhyno Smith and Tim Agaba are done with sevens for now. Cecil Afrika‚ Stedman Gans and Heino Bezuidenhout are unavailable for selection due to injuries.
But there are still some experienced players in the setup. Kyle Brown‚ Branco du Preez‚ Rosko Specman‚ Phillip Snyman‚ Werner Kok‚ Justin Geduld and Chris Dry are a formidable spine.
Afrika (hamstring) is recovering from an injury sustained earlier this year‚ when the Blitzboks clinched a second consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title. He will not be ready for selection in two weeks’ time when Powell names his first squad of the season for the opening tournament in Dubai.
Gans injured his ankle playing for the Blue Bulls Under-21s against the Golden Lions in their final at Newlands two weeks ago and Bezuidenhout suffered a hand injury in training last week.
“Injuries are part and parcel of rugby‚” Powell said.
“We did broaden our base of players over the last two seasons and that will help us coping with the loss of senior players who have either moved on or are injured. I am confident that we will put out a very competitive team for Dubai and Cape Town.”
Powell believed the experience gained by some of the younger players in the previous campaign would aid their preparation.
“All the players have a good understanding of what is expected of them‚ both in culture and play‚ so should fit in nicely when called upon‚” Powell said.
The impact of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in grooming the next generation of Blitzboks is well-documented and that objective will not change this season. The Academy side will also be in action in Dubai and will tour South America in January for tournaments in Mar del Plata and Vina del Mar.
A number of new players are training in academy colours at the moment. Former Tuks captain and Blue Bulls Under-21 loose forward‚ Denzil Hill‚ has joined the squad‚ as did Sharks Under-21 wingers Ilunga Mukendi and Luyanda Mngadi.
Blitzboks squad: Chris Dry‚ Impi Visser‚ Ryan Oosthuizen‚ Philip Snyman‚ Zain Davids‚ Kyle Brown‚ Selvyn Davids‚ Dewald Human‚ Justin Geduld‚ Werner Kok‚ Siviwe Soyizwapi‚ Stedman Gans‚ Cecil Afrika‚ Rosko Specman‚ Branco du Preez‚ Muller du Plessis‚ Mfundo Ndhlovu‚ James Murphy‚ JC Pretorius.
SA Rugby Sevens Academy: Marco Jansen van Vuren‚ Henco Martins‚ Sako Makata‚ Henk Cilliers‚ Ronald Brown‚ Angelo Davids‚ Denzil Hill‚ Ilunga Mukendi‚ Luyanda Mngadi. (Christie Grobbelaar and Muzi Manyike to join squad once they finish matric exams).