Olympic bronze medallist Tim Agaba makes a welcome return to the Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC/Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens tournament on 7-9 April, while Down Touch Griffons fullback, Selvyn Davids, will make his debut for the Blitzboks at the tournament, the seventh of the 2017 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Agaba, who has played for the Blitzboks in eight tournaments in 2016 and also represented Team South Africa at the Olympic Games last year, has fully recovered from an ankle injury sustained pre-season and will make a first appearance this season at the iconic event. He is in for the injured Stephan Dippenaar in one of two changes to the side that played in the final of the HSBC Vancouver Sevens earlier this month.
Davids represented the SA Rugby Sevens Academy team in Dubai in December last year and has been part of the wider Blitzboks training group. He replaces Rosko Specman, who was not considered due to a hamstring injury.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, also named Ryan Oosthuizen as the reserve player to travel with the team to Hong Kong and Singapore. Should he be called upon, Oosthuizen will make his debut for South Africa. Powell said he was happy to have Agaba back and keen to see what Davids could bring to the team.“Tim really performed well for us last year, so it is good to have him back. He has not played much, so it will be a big challenge for him, but he has shown in the past that he embraces those,” said Powell.
“Selvyn will have an important role to play, stepping into the shoes of Rosko, but he has worked hard and deserves this opportunity. He has impressed me in Dubai when he played with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side and I believe he will be a good addition to the team.”
Powell was relieved that a number of senior players managed to shake off niggles and were available for selection to Hong Kong, a tournament South Africa has never won. Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika, Chris Dry and Ruhan Nel all passed fitness tests and will leave with the team on Sunday.
“Our injury situation did not look good a couple of weeks ago coming back from Vancouver, but credit much be given to our medical and conditioning staff,” said Powell.
“We will never compromise on player welfare, but I am comfortable that all of them are fit and ready to go.”
The team has played in all six finals of the current series, winning four, but Powell points out that it means nothing in relation to the seventh tournament, in Hong Kong.
“It is a new tournament and we all start even. We have not won there, so it will be an added desire for the squad, but we will not look too far ahead. All our focus will be on that first match on Friday when we face France, a very dangerous opponent at any given time,” said Powell.
The Blitzboks will also face Kenya and Canada in Pool B.
The Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC/Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens is:
1. Chris Dry
2. Philip Snyman (captain)
3. Dylan Sage
4. Zain Davids
5. Werner Kok
6. Siviwe Soyizwapi
7. Branco du Preez
8. Tim Agaba
9. Selvyn Davids
10. Cecil Afrika
11. Stedman Gans
12. Ruhan Nel
13. Ryan Oosthuizen*