Springbok Sevens backline player, Branco du Preez, will play in his 50th tournament when the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series commences in Las Vegas in the USA next weekend.
Du Preez was on Wednesday named in the 13-man squad for the North American leg of the series, where they will contest the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens (3-5 March) and the HSBC Vancouver Sevens in Canada (11/12 March). They depart on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Du Preez made his Blitzbok debut in 2010 in Wellington and has since established himself as one of the core players in the team.
Du Preez has scored 89 points for the Blitzboks so far this season. He already kicked 37 conversions in the current series, which places him fourth on the list for 2016/17, but more impressive, 296 overall, the most by any South African player ever and 10th on the all-time list.
He has scored 963 career points – second to only Cecil Afrika (1167) in the history of the World Series for the Blitzboks – and could become only the second South Africa to reach 1000 career points on this trip.
Du Preez will also become only the fourth Blitzbok to get to 50 tournaments, following in the footsteps of Frankie Horne (68), Kyle Brown (58) and Chris Dry (56). He has played in 242 matches for the Blitzboks this far.
“It is a massive honour to make it to 50 tournaments,” Du Preez said on Thursday.
“Last season I was battling a number of injuries. I only played in four tournaments all season and missed out on the squad for the Olympic Games and at times I was wondering if I will ever get to 50 tournaments.
“I am extremely humbled and honoured to make it this far and would like to thank everyone, family and management, who helped me get to this milestone.”Du Preez has a very good record in the Nevada desert. He was part of all three squads to win the title in the Sam Boyd Stadium, claiming a winners’ medal in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
“We have a good record in Las Vegas and we must make use of the fact that we are fairly settled and have good momentum going into the tournament,” Du Preez said.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, praised Du Preez’s determination in getting back into the squad.
“Branco had to work really hard to get back to the level required and he made it happen,” said Powell.
“We are blessed to have a number of quality players in his position and the fact that he is in the starting spot shows how his hard work paid off. He is not the biggest player on circuit, but by far one of the bravest and adding his immense talent to that, it is no wonder he has been successful as a Blitzbok.”
At the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens, South Africa will face Canada (Saturday 4 March, 04h43 SA time), France (Saturday 4 March, 07h42 SA time) and Wales (Sunday 5 Match, 02h08 SA time) in Pool A of the tournament.
The Blitzboks have faced Canada 40 times, winning 35 of those with an average score of 27-9, while they won 45 of their 51 matches against France (average 24-9). They also have a solid record against Wales, winning 41 of their 42 clashes with an average score of 27-8.