He is amongst the fastest of really fast men in the Springboks Sevens squad and come the Safari Sevens in Nairobi this weekend, Angelo Davids will also be amongst the bravest.
The 20-year-old star winger for the Blitzboks and DHL Western Province, will take the field at RFUEA Grounds in the Kenyan capital at hooker for his team, something that has Davids as excited as when he made his debut in Hong Kong earlier this year.
The move to the forwards was mooted by Blitzbok coach Neil Powell, who realised that the striking power of Davids wide out could be limited due to the presence of Siviwe Soyizwapi and Seabelo Senatla, amongst other fast guys in the squad.
Powell has moved strike runners to the forwards before, most notably Werner Kok, with the former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year now also comfortable doing his bit in the scrum and lineout.
Davids is keen to make this a successful move too.
“Coach Neil chatted to me about the move – everything he said made sense to me and it made me determined to give it a try,” said Davids.
“We have a lot outside backs and playing opportunities is going to be limited for some of us. This is going to be such and exciting challenge for me.”
It is not only in fifteens where hookers are seen as a species of their own, in sevens you also need to have a certain determination (some call it ‘dog’) and attitude to certain aspects of play.
“Coach indicated that he saw that attitude in me and that endorsement gave me a lot of confidence and self-belief to make the move,” said Davids, who also played for the Junior Springboks in 2019.
“It is a win-win for me, literally. On the wing, you can be out of the game quite easily, but hookers are way more involved. And that suits me, I love to be involved, the more the better.”
From beating people on the outside and scoring tries as premium qualities, Davids is now jumping in lineouts, making lineout calls and scrumming down every now and again.
“The lineout calls were the worst as I have never done something like that,” said Davids.
“Luckily for me, someone like Philip Snyman was around to assist and advise and I think it is going okay so far. It will take time, but this weekend will be an interesting challenge for me. Physically the change was not that hard, it was more a mind-shift that I had to get right.”
A couple of weeks into his new role and Davids already has role models: “Kwagga (Smith) and Kyle (Brown) are definitely the guys I want to emulate. Philip spoke to me as well and he was quite pleased with the way I am adapting.”
For Davids this weekend is not about himself though.
“Everyone in the squad will have to bring it. We have our own standards to uphold and our own structures to implement. We have trained well, and everyone is pretty excited to go and play this weekend,” he said.
• Springbok Sevens assistant coach Renfred Dazel will be in charge of the team that departs for Kenya on Thursday evening. Dazel had to make two late changes to the squad announced earlier in the week. Divan Enslin and Shilton van Wyk were ruled out, with Christi Grobbelaar and Cameron Hufke coming into the travelling squad.
Grobbelaar, formerly from HTS Drostdy in Worcester, has been part of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy since the beginning of the year, while Hufke, a schoolboy star for Noordkaap High School in Kimberley and currently a Vodacom Blue Bulls age group player, joined the Academy this month.
South Africa are first seeds for the tournament and will contest Pool A against Uganda, Morans and Burundi. The other squads are Samurai, Western Province, Narvskaya Zastava and Red Wailers (Pool B), Shujaa, Blue Bulls, Russia Academy and Zambia (Pool C) and Spain, Zimbabwe, Seventise and KCB (Pool D).
The SA playing schedule for Saturday is:
08h50 v Burundi
11h40 v Morans
15h30 v Uganda
The SA squad is:
1. Christi Grobbelaar
2. Angelo Davids
3. Impi Visser
4. Luyanda Mngadi
5. James Murphy
6. Cameron Hufke
7. Andrew Kota
8. Selvyn Davids
9. Darren Adonis
10. Cecil Afrika
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain)
12. Stedman Gans
Management: Renfred Dazel (coach), Hugh Everson (physio), Ashley Evert (manager).