Cape Town - Two decorated Springbok Sevens players, Werner Kok and Frankie Horne, are in a race against time to make Team SA's Rugby Sevens squad that will travel to the Olympic Games in Rio in August.
Kok, the current World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year and Horne, the most capped Blitzbok of all time, form part of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side that will be playing in the Acqua Acetosa Stadium in Rome on Friday and Saturday and want to use this opportunity to prove to Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, that they are combat ready for Rio.
“I am starting all over again this weekend,” said Kok, who injured his knee in the opening tournament of the World Rugby Sevens Series in December and has not played since.
“The World Player of the Year acknowledgment is in the past, as it is what I have done previously. I need to start all over as if it my first tournament. So I need to get out there and do my best and show that I am good enough to be considered for the Rio group,” the winger said.
Horne, who played the last of his 68 consecutive tournaments for the Blitzboks in June last year, is equally determined to prove he is still good enough.
“My ankle injury did not help and the last four months of rehab was hard work,” said Horne. “I can only do my best out here to prove that I can still play at this level. Hopefully I can do enough to convince management that I recovered well enough from my injury and is fit enough to be considered for the team going to the Olympics.”
The SA Sevens Academy is coached by Marius Schoeman, with Powell also in attendance to evaluate the performances of the players.
Apart from Kok and Horne, Springbok Sevens regulars Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Sandile Ncgobo and Siviwe Soyizwapi will also be using this tournament to impress Powell, as they had limited exposure in the World Series this year.
Ncgobo, who is captaining the team, said it is important for everyone to play as a team: “All the guys have something different to prove, but in the end, it is going to be what we achieve as a combined unit. The guys have trained well and I am confident that we will give a good account of ourselves.
“There is enough experience in the side, but that will mean nothing if our commitment and effort does not match that.”
The SA Sevens Academy team for the Roma Sevens tournament:
1. Frankie Horne
2. Sandile Ngcobo (captain)
3. Luke van der Smit
4. Ryan Oosthuizen
5. Stephan Dippenaar
6. Branco du Preez
7. Donovan du Randt
8. Lungelo Gosa
9. Spamandla Ngcobo
10. Dewald Human
11. Werner Kok
12. Siviwe Soyizwapi