Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell named Francois Hougaard, Rosko Specman, Philip Snyman and Dylan Sage as the changes to his squad that will travel to France on Sunday to contest the HSBC Paris Sevens, to be played at the Stade Jean Bouin in the French capital from 13 to 15 May.
They replace Siviwe Soyizwapi, Branco du Preez, Chris Dry and Stephan Dippenaar respectively from the side that won bronze in Singapore last month.
Hougaard returns to the Springboks Sevens team following a stint with Worcester Warriors and Snyman, who picked up a head-knock in Hong Kong, now fully fit and again takes over from Dry, who replaced him in Singapore.
The return of Rosko Specman, who last played in Vancouver, means that Du Preez misses out on the French tournament. Sage also last played in Vancouver and missed out in Hong Kong and Singapore when Dippenaar was given a run for the first time in the current series.
Powell explained that he is looking to rotate a number of players after Paris, with some changes expected again for the HSBC London Sevens in two weeks’ time.
“It is important for us to do well and try and win the series, but we also need to look at the welfare of regulars with Rio in mind, so I am planning to replace a number of these guys travelling to Paris for the London tournament,” Powell said.“We have built good depth in the squad and with a number of players really pushing hard for a starting spot, I feel comfortable that we can rotate some players in the next two weeks and still remain very competitive. We came close on many occasions during the series and we need to keep on believing.
“It is going to be tough to overhaul Fiji at the top of the standings, but we are still in it with two tournaments to go. That was one of our objectives at the start of the 2015/16 series.”
Powell is also expanding his captaincy base and called on Philip Snyman to lead the side. Snyman also took charge of the side in the Wellington and Sydney tournaments earlier this year.
“We are determined to do well,” Snyman said. “We owe it to ourselves to finish strong, especially with the Olympics on the horizon. That said, the focus will be on game one, day one against England. We want to play well and make our supporters proud as well. We owe them so much.”
South Africa is currently second on the overall log. Fiji (147 points) remains firm favourites to win the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for a second year in a row, but South Africa (139) and New Zealand (135) can still pip them at the post if the South Sea team falters in Europe.
The Blitzboks are grouped in Pool B with Australia, England and Brazil in Paris. They face England next Friday and Brazil and Australia on Saturday and will be looking for a ninth consecutive Cup quarter-final berth come Sunday 15 May.
The Springbok Sevens team (with number of tournament caps) is:
1. Ryan Kankowski (6)
2. Philip Snyman (35, captain)
3. Tim Agaba (5)
4. Kwagga Smith (23)
5. Francois Hougaard (4)
6. Kyle Brown (54)
7. Dylan Sage (5)
8. Rosko Specman (11)
9. Justin Geduld (25)
10. Cecil Afrika (42)
11. Seabelo Senatla (29)
12. Ruhan Nel (10)
· Cecil Afrika is the leading South African point’s scorer of all time in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. He has scored 1049 points in 42 tournaments so far.
· Seabelo Senatla (270 points, 54 tries) is the leading Blitzboks points’ scorer this season – he also tops the overall try-scoring stakes for 2015/16. Justin Geduld (238 points) is in second place for South Africa.
· The World Series had Paris as host three times before with the last event held there, in the 2005/2006 season, won by South Africa.
Record in Paris:
· 1999/2000 – Lost to New Zealand in Final
· 2004/2005 – Beat England in Plate Final
· 2005/2006 – Beat Samoa in Final