Depleted Blitzboks send in the reserves for North America
‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’‚ is an old adage and one the Blitzboks will take to heart as they hope their depleted squad will all stay in Vegas without tournament-ending injuries.
The Blitzboks‚ without six stalwarts who have featured regularly over the past two years‚ will go into the North American leg of the World Sevens Series with inexperienced newcomers as they look to grow their depth.
The SA Sevens are top of the 2017/18 standings with 77 points after four rounds – eight clear of New Zealand – but will enter the next phase of the tournament with new faces.
Outside back Muller du Plessis is set for his debut in Las Vegas while Selvyn Davids will feature in his second World Series event.
The team has lost Justin Geduld and Rosko Specman to injury while all-time leading try scorer Seabelo Senatla and forwards Kwagga Smith‚ Tim Agaba and Sikhumbuzo Notshe are on Super Rugby duty.
On the up side‚ skipper Philip Snyman‚ who missed the last tournament in Hamilton due to a hamstring injury‚ has recovered to lead the team and add much-needed experience.
Despite the player losses there is still an impressive spine to the team with Kyle Brown (62 tournaments)‚ Branco du Preez (57) and Cecil Afrika (55) providing experience in Las Vegas.
“We knew about the players heading back to Super Rugby and planned for that‚” coach Neil Powell said.
“But losing Justin and Rosko has been a setback. But besides Muller du Plessis‚ everyone has been part of the broader squad since last season so we are still optimistic.” Du Plessis‚ a former SA Schools and SA Rugby Sevens Academy representative‚ joined the squad in Hamilton as a replacement player‚ but was unfortunately ruled out due to a knock sustained in training before the tournament kicked off.
The 18-year-old will become Blitzbok number 168 if he is called into the starting 12. Davids will fill the playmaker role left vacant by Geduld‚ while there is also a return to action for Ryan Oosthuizen and Siviwe Soyizwapi.
Ruhan Nel has also been named for the trip although his final participation will be decided after a few training sessions in Vegas.
Davids and Oosthuizen will be in action for the first time in the current series‚ after making their Blitzbok debuts in the 2016/17 season‚ in which South Africa claimed overall honours.
Soyizwapi picked up a knee injury at Cape Town Sevens in December and missed the trip to Australasia. “Siviwe‚ Selvyn and Ryan have played for us before and I am excited about their expected contributions‚ while Muller has been part of our plans for a while now‚” Powell said.
“We have a number of old hands on deck‚ but having some youthful energy from the younger guys are always a bonus.” The Blitzboks face Wales‚ Canada and England in Pool B in Las Vegas. They depart for the USA on Saturday.
The Springbok Sevens team (from):
1. Ryan Oosthuizen (4 tournaments‚ 12 matches‚ 0 points)
2. Philip Snyman (captain – 50 tournaments‚ 225 matches‚ 321 points‚ 58 tries)
3. Dylan Sage (19 tournaments‚ 104 matches‚ 110 points‚ 22 tries)
4. Zain Davids (7 tournaments‚ 25 matches‚ 10 points‚ 2 tries)
5. Werner Kok (33 tournaments‚ 165 matches‚ 370 points‚ 74 tries)
6. Kyle Brown (62 tournaments‚ 312 matches‚ 410 points‚ 82 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (58 tournaments‚ 291 matches‚ 1107 points‚ 81 tries)
8. Muller du Plessis (uncapped)
9. Selvyn Davids (1 tournament‚ 5 matches‚ 2 points)
10. Cecil Afrika (57 tournaments‚ 297 matches‚ 1368 points‚ 165 tries)
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (13 tournaments‚ 59 matches‚ 180 points‚ 36 tries)
12. Stedman Gans (6 tournaments‚ 23 matches‚ 10 points‚ 2 tries)
13. Ruhan Nel (23 tournaments‚ 127 matches‚ 217 points‚ 43 tries)