Cape Town - Four of the most experienced Springbok Sevens players, boasting a total of 198 tournament caps between then, were included in Neil Powell’s 13-man squad that will travel to Dubai for the opening tournament of the 2016/17 World Rugby Sevens Series.
Kyle Brown (56 tournaments), Chris Dry (52), Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez (45 each) have all been included in the Blitzbok squad for the Dubai 7s on December 2 and 3, while another stalwart, Philip Snyman (37 tournaments) was named as captain of the side.
The SA Rugby Sevens Academy side, on the other hand, will have a number of new faces to the senior sevens set-up, as Academy Manager, Marius Schoeman, looks to grow the depth of his group with some talented youngsters.
It will be a 10th visit to The Sevens Stadium for Brown, with Dylan Sage and Siviwe Soyizwapi the only players not to have donned the Blitzboks colours at this iconic venue in the Arabian Desert before.
Soyizwapi will travel to Dubai as standby player in a revised World Rugby squad structure that allow an additional player to the squad, in case of injury. Powell could not pick the injured Tim Agaba and named Sage as a forward for this trip.
“Dylan has played as a forward for us before and did very well there in our recent warm-up tournament in Namibia, so I am very happy to name him in the front line,” Powell explained.
“He might not be the most experienced in that position, but we have a number of stalwarts in the pack. Kyle, Philip and Chris are some of the most experienced players ever in our squad, so I am pretty confident that they will guide Dylan through any potential potholes.”
The coach added that his squad shows maturity and experience and with him extending his contract for another four years, a fair amount of consistency.
“No doubt, we will be one of the most experienced sides in Dubai,” said Powell.
“This group of players have won a couple of tournaments in the past, but as we realised at the end of the previous season in our final against Scotland, you cannot relax for one second. So experience only really counts when you combine that with faith in your structures and your best effort on the day.”
The Blitzboks will face Scotland again in pool play, as well as Uganda and USA in their other matches next Friday.
The Springbok Sevens squad for Dubai:
1. Chris Dry (52 tournaments, 360 points)
2. Philip Snyman (captain, 37, 211)
3. Dylan Sage (7, 40)
4. Kwagga Smith (24, 250)
5. Werner Kok (19, 210)
6. Kyle Brown (56, 385)
7. Branco du Preez (45, 874)
8. Rosko Specman (13, 169)
9. Justin Geduld (25, 558)
10. Cecil Afrika (45, 1123)
11. Ruhan Nel (11, 110)
12. Seabelo Senatla (29, 785)
13. Siviwe Soyizwapi (3, 30)
Two Junior Springboks included in young SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad
Meanwhile, SA Rugby Sevens Academy Manager, Marius Schoeman, included regular sevens campaigner, Stephan Dippenaar, in his squad for the 2016 Dubai International Invitational tournament, to be played at The Sevens in Dubai on 1 and 2 December.
Dippenaar, who played in 29 tournaments for the Blitzboks, will add valuable experience, as Schoeman named a young squad with the eye on the future. The squad includes two players who travelled to England with the Junior Springboks this year in Zain Davids and Stedman Gans.
Gans and Mfundo Ndhlovu were part of Schoeman’s team that won the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa last year, while 21-year old Ryan Oosthuizen won gold with Schoeman at the Australian Youth Olympics four years ago. Xerox Golden Lions Under-19 midfielder Wayne van der Bank adds another injection of youth.
A number of players who impressed Schoeman and coach Paul Delport at the recent Interprovincial Sevens played in Nelspruit were called up, including Diederik Oberholzer (Leopards), Joel Booysen (Western Province), Robbie Louw (Boland), Impi Visser (Blue Bulls) and Selvyn Davids (Griffons), who was named Player of the Tournament.
“We need to assist in introducing promising young players to the sevens systems as the Academy is all about finding the next guy who can play for the Blitzboks,” said Schoeman.
“The likes of Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla and Werner Kok all started here and we believe a couple of players in this squad for Dubai that can also follow that pathway.”
The SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad for Dubai:
1. Ryan Oosthuizen (Western Province)
2. Stephan Dippenaar (SA Rugby)
3. Zain Davids (Western Province)
4. Robbie Louw (Boland)
5. Impi Visser (Blue Bulls)
6. Wayne van der Bank (Golden Lions)
7. Selvyn Davids (Griffons)
8. Malcolm Jaer (Eastern Province)
9. Diederik Oberholzer (Leopards)
10. Mfundo Ndhlovu (KZN)
11. Joel Booysen (Western Province)
12. Stedman Gans (Blue Bulls)
Blitzboks stats and facts:
• The Springbok Sevens team have won the Dubai Sevens tournament four times in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2014.
• The squad includes three World Rugby Sevens Players of the Year - Cecil Afrika won in 2011, Werner Kok in 2015 and Seabelo Senatla in 2016.
• There have been 161 Springboks Sevens players since the inception of the World Series in 1999 (excluding Sevens World Cups), with Siviwe Soyizwapi the last.
• No less than 33 Blitzboks have gone on to represent the Springboks, with Warren Whiteley, Cornal Hendricks and Jamba Ulengo the most recent. Seabelo Senatla has toured with the Boks, but didn’t feature in any matches.