Blitzbok flyer Werner Kok and playmaker Cecil Afrika enjoy rugby more than bright city lights, but both are very excited about the prospect of cutting up the turf when they play in the exciting HSBC Las Vegas Sevens this weekend.
Kok missed the trip to the Nevada desert last year because of injury, and can’t wait to get a taste of playing at the Sam Boyd Stadium again. He was part of the Springbok Sevens squad that won in Las Vegas in 2014.
“I missed out last year, but this week realised again what an amazing place Las Vegas is,” said Kok.
“More importantly though, is the vibe around the tournament and I cannot wait to get started. I have very good memories here. It is an awesome tournament and I love playing here.”
The World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year of 2015 picked up an early calf strain in Sydney last month and missed the play-offs and subsequent tournament victory, so he is keen to add another tournament medal to his already impressive tally.
“It is never nice to miss out on a tournament, but luckily that niggle is sorted out and I am feeling fresh and ready to go,” said Kok, who will be playing in his 24th tournament for the Blitzboks and third in Las Vegas.
“This is a fun tournament to be part of and I am happy to be here. Now we need to get onto the field and I am looking forward to that.”Afrika, who is also back to full fitness, complimented the structures of the sevens set-up and the high standards it demands from the players.
“It is great to be back with the guys, especially after missing out on those back-to-back wins in Wellington and Sydney. What struck me immediately was how trusted our structures are. I slotted in immediately,” Africa said.
The playmaker is South Africa’s leading point scorer in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series (1167 points in 47 tournaments), but realises that his starting berth for the first match against Canada on Friday is far from secure, with Justin Geduld excelling in this role in Wellington and Sydney.
“Yes, Justin was fantastic in those two tournaments and one have to congratulate him on that,” said Afrika.
“He played very well, but that is a healthy thing in the squad. Players push each other all the time and I think that contributes to our combined effort as a team.
“Injuries are part of the game and the nice thing of rugby is that it gives another player a chance to show his worth. Justin certainly showed that.”
Afrika, himself a former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year (2011), will be playing in his seventh Las Vegas tournament and is keen to contribute again.
“I am happy to be fit again and want to go out there, have fun and do my part for the team,” he said. “It is the best time out there, when you are playing with your brothers, representing your country.”
The Blitzboks are currently leading the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings after four tournaments.
The top five teams in the standings are:
- South Africa 85
- England 68
- Fiji 64
- New Zealand 56
- Scotland 45