Cape Town - Regular Springbok Sevens squad member, Sandile “Stix” Ngcobo, has joined the Blitzboks in Vancouver as official reserve player for the Vancouver Sevens tournament to be played at BC Stadium this weekend (March 11 and 12).
The backline player will provide cover to the starting 12-man squad as replacement player after Justin Geduld picked up an ankle injury last weekend in Las Vegas and was ruled out of the Vancouver tournament, the sixth of ten in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Stedman Gans, who travelled to the USA as back-up, replaced Geduld on the third day of the Las Vegas Sevens and will continue in this role for the Canada event. Ngcobo will take over the 'Player 13' role from Gans.
The travelling reserve has been introduced into the World Rugby Sevens Series for 2016/17 as part of World Rugby's player welfare initiatives and has proved its worth for the Blitzboks already in the season.
Ngcobo travelled with the squad earlier in the year as back-up for the Wellington tournament, but then had to return to South Africa after a family bereavement. His replacement for the Australian leg of the tour, Stephan Dippenaar, got a playing opportunity when Werner Kok was injured and even scored a try in the final of the Sydney Sevens against England.
Gans also sat on the bench against the USA and Fiji on the final day in Las Vegas, but did not take to the field.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said he feels for Geduld, but accepted early in his coaching career that injuries are part and parcel of the game.
“We had our share of injuries already this year,” said Powell.
“We lost Tim Agaba and Carel du Preez in a pre-season tournament, then Kyle Brown in Cape Town and Cecil Afrika before travelling to Wellington and Sydney.
“Werner Kok could also not play on the second day in Australia and now Justin had to return home. On top of that, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith moved to the Super Rugby competition, so our depth has been tested, but on the plus side, every injury creates an opportunity for another player to show his worth.”
Powell was pleased for Ngcobo.
“’Stix’ is a great squad member and although not always in the travelling group, someone who keeps on motivating the rest of the guys and training hard. You cannot win the World Series with only 12 players and we are fortunate to have players like him around as our back-up,” said Powell.
The coach was excited for Gans, who could feature in pool play on Saturday when South Africa takes on Chile, Kenya and England.
“We had a clear objective to blood the next generation of Blitzboks and Stedman falls into that category. He works hard, is willing to learn and presents something exciting for the future,” Powell said of the 20-year old who also represented the Junior Springboks last year at the World Rugby Junior World Cup in England.
The Blitzboks attended a school assembly in Vancouver on Tuesday and will start fine tuning their regular preparations in the remaining days leading up to the tournament.
The Springbok Sevens squad for the Vancouver Sevens (with caps and points):
1. Chris Dry (57, 415)
2. Philip Snyman (captain, 42, 246)
3. Dylan Sage (12, 60)
4. Zain Davids (3, 0)
5. Werner Kok (24, 285)
6. Siviwe Soyizwapi (8, 65)
7. Branco du Preez (50, 976)
8. Stephan Dippenaar (31, 210)
9. Stedman Gans (1,0)
10. Cecil Afrika (48, 1183)
11. Rosko Specman (18, 228)
12. Ruhan Nel (16, 155)
13. Sandile Ngcobo* (2, 10)