Note to editors: Audio notes of Neil Powell (Afrikaans and English) and Mfundo Ndhlovu (English and Zulu) can be downloaded here.
Cecil Afrika and Mfundo Ndhlovu have been called up to join the Springbok Sevens team in Paris for the HSBC Paris Sevens as injury replacements for Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stedman Gans when the 10th and final tournament in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series takes place at the Stade Jean-Bouin on Saturday and Sunday
Arendse (concussion) and Gans (hand) picked up their injuries at the HSBC London Sevens and was ruled out of the final leg of the season.
The last of Ndlovu’s three tournaments for the Blitzboks was in Las Vegas in March, where he picked up a wrist injury. He was replaced by Arendse for the Vancouver leg of the World Series. He has scored three tries in 14 matches.
Afrika injured his hamstring a year ago in London and this will be his first appearance in the 2018/19 World Series, following a long rehabilitation period.
The former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year is the Blitboks’ leading points’ scorer of all time, with 1430 points in 61 tournaments and 318 matches.
The injuries to Gans and Arendse left Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell without his two centres in the team, but he is pleased that Afrika and Ndhlovu can take over.
“Yes, both our injured players play in the same position, with Stedman covering for us at flyhalf as well, so it was a bit of a problem,” Powell said.
“I am happy to be able to bring someone with Cecil’s experience into the team, while Mfundo has shown in the past that he can play at this level. This is also a great opportunity for him to gain more experience. He was probably a bit unlucky to miss out in selection in the first place.”
The enjoyment of playing for the Springbok Sevens team, being part of a special group of players and having an opportunity to make the country proud will be some of the driving factors for the Blitzboks this week in London as they prepare for the penultimate tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
For Muller du Plessis it will be a week filled with smiles, as this weekend’s HSBC London Sevens will provide him with another chance to play for the Blitzboks following a stop-start season due to injury, at a favourite venue in a much-liked city and amongst the closest of friends.
In fact, said Du Plessis, it is a tournament they await with much anticipation.
“There is a good feeling amongst the guys – we trained well, are in good spirits and a good space and everyone is looking forward to the weekend,” said Du Plessis.
The 19-year-old speedster started the season with a bang, scoring a hat-trick of tries against Fiji in Dubai, but things went sour after that. He got injured in their opening game in Cape Town a week later and also missed the tournaments in Hamilton and Sydney.
There are two changes to the DHL Western Province starting line-up for the SuperSport Rugby Challenge encounter against Cell C Sharks XV in Durban on Friday.
There is one change in the forward pack and one in the backline for the clash, which kicks off at 15h00 on Friday at KP2 on the outer grounds at Jonsson Kings Park.
Hooker Daniel Jooste is back from injury to take his place in the starting line-up, while David Brits makes his first start of the season at outside centre.
There are a number of changes to the replacements bench with prop Michael Kumbirai and scrumhalf Godlen Masimla making their first appearances of the campaign and outside back Tristan Leyds back from injury.
DHL Western Province Head Coach Jerome Paarwater said that his side are determined to make it three consecutive wins on the road.
With the South African Conference in the 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament the tightest in years, four of the five teams involved will be chasing crucial wins in Round 13 of the competition on Friday and Saturday.
The Vodacom Bulls play the Crusaders in a vital Vodacom Super Rugby clash on Friday evening in Pretoria. The big match at Loftus Versfeld starts at 19h10 and will be televised live on SuperSport1.
That game is followed by two fixtures on Saturday involving local sides. The Cell C Sharks complete their Australian tour with a visit to Waikato, Hamilton, where they will face the Chiefs from 09h35.
The only local fixture of the weekend sees the Emirates Lions in action against the Waratahs at the Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, where the kick-off is scheduled for 15h05. The DHL Stormers have a bye this weekend, while the Jaguares – the other team in the South African conference – face the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday (07h15), looking to increase their recent unbeaten run.
Brits, Jenkins back for Vodacom Bulls’ Crusaders test
Springboks Schalk Brits and Jason Jenkins are back in the Vodacom Bulls pack for their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening, when the Pretoria outfit will be eager to put in another good performance following their 28-21 home win over the Waratahs last weekend.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens team on Thursday won the Centrale Sevens tournament in Paris, starting their short tour of France in the best possible way as they were unbeaten in their six matches.
The tournament culminated with a 24-7 win over the Ukraine in the final at Stade de la Peupleraie in the French capital and afterwards, Springbok Women’s Sevens coach Paul Delport was full of praise for the effort put in by the squad.
“I am very pleased and proud on how the team responded today. We had tough conditions, with rain yesterday and today, but the ladies really played well,” Delport said.
“We came here to be tested and to see where we are as a squad and I am pleased on both fronts. We are pretty lucky in not picking up any injuries and especially in our matches against Ukraine, the squad had to dig deep.
“We tried to spread the workload amongst the squad as well and everyone got good game time, which was another objective of the trip.”
A 25-man DHL Stormers squad will travel to Argentina on Tuesday ahead of their Vodacom Super Rugby encounter with the Jaguares in Buenos Aires this weekend.
The DHL Stormers will be looking for their second win against the Jaguares this season when they run out at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani at 21h40 SA time on Saturday.
Utility forwards Pieter-Steph du Toit (shoulder) and Ernst van Rhyn (elbow) were ruled out of the touring group through injury, while flank Siya Kolisi and prop Frans Malherbe will be rested as part of the Springbok management plan.
Loose forwards Jaco Coetzee and Sikhumbuzo Notshe have both recovered from injuries and will make the trip.
DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck said that the players going to Argentina will be giving it everything to secure another win.
• Newrak Rustenburg Impala to face Durbanville-Bellville
• Rustenburg to host third Final in four years
• Match is repeat of 2015 Final won by Durbell
• SuperSport to televise Final on Sunday at 14h30 on SS1 & SS10
Note to Editors: A rights free image of Newrak Rustenburg Impala centre McDonald Duma scoring a try in his team’s semi-final victory over Northam Platinum Rhinos is attached. Credit: Sydney Seshibedi, Gallo Images.
Two teams who between them have lifted the Gold Cup three times in the past five seasons will resume their rivalry on Sunday in the biggest match of the season in South African amateur club rugby.
Newrak Impala — champions in 2014 and 2016 — will host 2015 winners Durbanville-Bellville on Sunday in Rustenburg in the Final of the 2019 SSG Gold Cup, presented by Blu Approved & M4Jam and championed by 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok captain John Smit.
The Final will be televised live on Sunday at 14h30 on SuperSport 1 and 10 (DStv channels 201 and 210).
Impala and Durbell reached the final after convincing semi-final victories over Northam Platinum Rhinos and Hollywoodbets Swallows respectively, bringing to a climax five weeks of thrilling rugby that drew capacity crowds from all walks of life to community venues across the country.
Springbok Sevens forward Zain Davids will undergo shoulder surgery on Wednesday and has been ruled out of the last three tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The 22-year-old Davids injured his shoulder in training in Hong Kong last week and had to return to South Africa before the start of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, where the Blitzboks finished in seventh position.
The injury comes at a bad time for the Blitzboks as their two worst results of the season – in Las Vegas and Hong Kong – happened in Davids’ absence.
But there was good news on the injury front too, with confirmation that regular captain, Philip Snyman, the experienced Cecil Afrika and young guns JC Pretorius and Mfundo Ndhlovu are all available for selection for the final two tournaments in the series, in London (25-26 May) and Paris (1-2 June). All of them are in the final stages of rehabilitation at the team’s home base in Stellenbosch.
The Blitzboks are in a tight race with England to retain the fourth spot on the World Series log – which will give them automatic entry to the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan – and that challenge will continue in Singapore this weekend.
Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux said his team will take the lessons learned from their U20 International Series clash against Georgia on Tuesday despite walking away with a 58-10 victory at Paarl Gymnasium.
A four-try brace by Junior Springbok No8 and captain, Francke Horn, sparked an eight-try romp against their World Rugby U20 Championship pool opponents, although the team was tested thoroughly by the physical Georgian forwards.
“It was a difficult game and we couldn’t get rhythm,” said Roux. “They slowed things down and we knew that we needed to speed it up. They also had a powerful scrum, although we expected that.
“These players are young and it was a good learning curve for them. That said, we are satisfied with the win.”
Roux was particularly pleased with their defence, as the only points scored against them was a penalty try and a penalty goal.