Late injury blow for Blitzboks

08 June 2018 - 13:56 By Craig Ray
Neil Powell, head coach of South Africa, after the Rugby 7's semi final match between the Blitzboks and Fiji on day 11 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Robina Stadium on April 15, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.
Neil Powell, head coach of South Africa, after the Rugby 7's semi final match between the Blitzboks and Fiji on day 11 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Robina Stadium on April 15, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

The Blitzboks suffered a late injury blow before the season’s final World Series tournament in Paris with Stedman Gans breaking his hand in training.

Mfundo Ndhlovu‚ who joined the Blitzboks as 13th player for Paris‚ replaces Gans.

Rhyno Smith‚ who made his sole appearance for the Blitzboks in Hong Kong this year‚ will join the squad as the official reserve.

“Rhyno has been with us the last six months and has developed very nicely and will fit in well if he is called upon‚” said coach Neil Powell.

“Sadly‚ Stedman is missing out as he did well in London. Mfundo is one of the most exciting players in the squad and he will also be keen to grab this opportunity.”

The Blitzboks trail Fiji by seven points and need the Pacific islanders to be eliminated before the quarterfinal stage‚ while going on to win the Paris event‚ to retain their title.

“Our aims for this weekend are clear – we want to leave nothing out there‚ bring the energy‚ keep the focus and trust the process‚” Powell said.

“We are also proud of our consistency. It was great to reach nine semifinals out of nine‚ but this is the final hurdle for us. We need to go out and make it happen though‚ no one is going to do it for us.”

Powell often urges his troops to play with a smile on their faces and their performances this season have done the same to their ever-growing fan base.

Those smiles will be even broader if the Blitzboks manage to defend their Paris title and in the process retain the World Series crown.

That mission for the Blitzboks starts in Pool B against Scotland‚ followed by matches against Russia and Canada.

“It is a tough pool and we will have to play well to make it to the quarterfinals‚” said Powell.

“Knowing the Scottish and their character‚ they will be coming for us. They did not play well in London‚ so they will be determined to improve on that showing. Russia play good‚ basic rugby and beat Scotland last weekend.

“The last one against Canada will be very physical. They are capable of beating any of the teams on the circuit as they have shown in the past.”

Winger Siviwe Soyizwapi echoed Powell’s words: “Management did well to help us recover and we are keen to get going. Last weekend‚ we showed good courage‚ commitment and endeavour‚ especially on day two.

“We need to keep that mindset and make sure we keep on giving it our all. If so‚ we will finish each match with that smile on our face that the coach talks about.

“Paris is an inspirational city‚ now it is time for us to show some inspiration.”

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