Cape Town - Blitzboks playmaker Cecil Afrika is set for a long stint on the sidelines after injuring his knee in training earlier this week.
Afrika was subsequently withdrawn from the Springbok Sevens squad named for the upcoming World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Wellington and Sydney.
These tournaments, the third and fourth in the series, will be played in the New Zealand capital on January 28/29, and in Australia on February 4/5, respectively.
Coach Neil Powell said his star player will be out of action for an extended period.
“His boot got caught in the grass and he just collapsed in pain. They (the doctors) are still busy trying to determine the damage. But at present it looks like he’ll only be available when we play in Hong Kong and Singapore,” Powell told Netwerk24.
This would see Afrika also miss the tournaments in Las Vegas (March 3-5) and Vancouver (March 11-12). The Hong Kong tournament is scheduled for the the weekend of April 7-9 and the Singapore one for April 15-16.
The final two events on the World Rugby Sevens Series calendar are in Paris (May 13-14) and London (May 20-21).
Veteran Kyle Brown is also out with a knee injury, which saw two new players in the Blitzboks squad named for the events Down Under.
Siviwe Soyizwapi and Zain Davids, who will be making his Springbok Sevens debut in Wellington, are the only new faces in the squad that won the opening tournament of the 2016/17 series in Dubai in December last year and were beaten finalists in Cape Town a week later.
“We have lost over 100 tournaments worth of experience with Kyle and Cecil out of action,” Powell said via a press statement earlier this week.The Springbok Sevens squad:
“That said, we always knew that we needed to bring new players into the system and Zain was earmarked as one of them. He has shown a good appetite for sevens and will now be tested at the highest level.
“Shakes (Soyizwapi) played for us last year and will be keen to establish himself in the side, especially as Seabelo Senatla will be moving to XVs. He did very well in the warm-up tournament in Namibia late last year and I am pleased to have him in the playing squad.”
Davids, who represented the Junior Springboks as a flank at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in 2016, will make his debut for the Blitzboks in New Zealand after a successful start with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in Dubai last year.
Soyizwapi was part of the squad in Dubai and Cape Town as the official back-up player. He sat on the bench for the Blitzboks in their final of the Cape Town Sevens against England when Senatla could not complete the tournament due to a quad strain.
1. Chris Dry (54 tournaments, 380 points)
2. Philip Snyman (captain, 39, 231)
3. Dylan Sage (9, 45)
4. Kwagga Smith (26, 255)
5. Werner Kok (21, 250)
6. Zain Davids (debut)
7. Branco du Preez (47, 922)
8. Rosko Specman (15, 196)
9. Justin Geduld (27, 594)
10. Siviwe Soyizwapi (4, 30)
11. Ruhan Nel (13, 125)
12. Seabelo Senatla (31, 860)
13. Sandile Ngcobo (2, 10)*