Celimpilo Gumede and Diego Appollis will add international experience to the SA Rugby Under-18 Sevens Academy squad for the Capricorn Windhoek International 7s on 9 and 10 March, where coach Marius Schoeman’s team will look to defend their title.
The 12-member squad includes five players who featured in the 2017 Coca-Cola Craven Week in Johannesburg, while 10 of the players have Under-17 Interprovincial Sevens experience. A 13th player, Stefan Smit – also with U17 Sevens experience – will travel with the squad as a reserve.
The tournament will feature six teams, namely the SA Rugby U18 Sevens Academy, Namibia, Germany, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The team will depart for Namibia two days before the tournament kicks off, and while Schoeman was under no illusions about the challenge ahead, he had faith in his charges to make their presence felt.
“We will only have one training session before the tournament, which could place us under a bit of pressure,” said Schoeman.“But this competition forms an important part of our preparation for the African Youth Games, which will serve as qualifiers for the Youth Olympic Games in October this year, so our focus will be on gelling as a unit from the outset and giving our best on the field.”
Schoeman was pleased with the quality of his squad and said: “There is some great schoolboy talent out there, and I always look forward to engaging with these players from such a young age.
“A few players from last season’s SA U18 squad – Muller du Plessis, Angelo Davids and Henk Cilliers – have already made the step-up to the SA Rugby Sevens Academy team and were part of the team that won two tournaments in South America in January, despite only finishing school two months ago. So this tournament is a great platform for them to progress to the senior Sevens system in future.
“That said, we will continue to keep an eye on other to-performing players for the tournaments later in the year, so we encourage the players outside this group to continue working hard to play their way into contention for selection later in the season.”
SA U18 squad for the Capricorn Windhoek International 7s tournament (in alphabetical order):
Stefan Smit (travelling reserve)