The Springbok Sevens team entered the final stretch of their preparations for the first two tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, in Dubai and Cape Town, in less than a month.
All the players have now assembled for the final push for the opening tournaments in Dubai, starting on 30 November, and the HSBC Cape Town Sevens a week later, on 8 and 9 December at the Cape Town Stadium.
With a number of regulars moving on to fifteens and some current squad members out injured, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has the opportunity to combine some old hands with a number of less experienced players as he looks to find the correct mix to defend the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens title.
Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Dylan Sage, Ruhan Nel, Rhyno Smith and Tim Agaba are done with sevens for now, while Cecil Afrika, Stedman Gans and Heino Bezuidenhout are unavailable for selection due to injuries.
Afrika (hamstring) is recovering from an injury sustained earlier this year, when the Blitzboks clinched a second consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title and will not be ready for selection in two weeks’ time when Powell names his first squad of the season.
Gans injured his ankle playing for the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21s against the Xerox Golden Lions in their final at DHL Newlands two weeks ago and Bezuidenhout suffered a hand injury in training last week.
“Injuries are part and parcel of rugby,” Powell said.
“We did broaden our base of players over the last two seasons and that will help us coping with the loss of senior players who have either moved on or are injured. I am confident that we will put out a very competitive team for Dubai and Cape Town.”
Powell believed the experience gained by some of the younger players in the previous campaign will aid their preparation.
“All the players have a good understanding of what is expected of them, both in culture and play, so should fit in nicely when called upon,” Powell explained.
The impact of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in grooming the next generation of Blitzboks is well-documented and that objective will not change this season. The Academy side will also be in action in Dubai and will tour South America in January for tournaments in Mar del Plata and Vina del Mar.
A number of new players are training in Academy colours at the moment. Former FNB-Tuks captain and Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21 loose forward, Denzil Hill, has joined the squad, as did Cell C Sharks Under-21 wingers Ilunga Mukendi and Luyanda Mngadi.
The Blitzboks squad is: Chris Dry, Impi Visser, Ryan Oosthuizen, Philip Snyman, Zain Davids, Kyle Brown, Selvyn Davids, Dewald Human, Justin Geduld, Werner Kok, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Stedman Gans, Cecil Afrika, Rosko Specman, Branco du Preez, Muller du Plessis, Mfundo Ndhlovu, James Murphy, JC Pretorius.
The SA Rugby Sevens Academy consists of: Marco Jansen van Vuren, Henco Martins, Sako Makata, Henk Cilliers, Ronald Brown, Angelo Davids, Denzil Hill, Ilunga Mukendi, Luyanda Mngadi. Christie Grobbelaar and Muzi Manyike will join the squad once they finish their matric exams.