With just less than a week to go until the professional competition, the Rugby Tens Championship arrives in South Africa to host legs in Pretoria and Stellenbosch.
Here are 10 of the names you will be seeing at Loftus Versfeld and Danie Craven Stadium.
1 – Branco du Preez (South Africa): A Blitzbok for the past 12 years, Branco du Preez has proven himself to be one of the most consistent playmakers in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. In his international career, Du Preez has won two World Rugby Sevens Series, won a Commonwealth gold medal in 2014, represented South Africa at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens, and played at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
2 – Shakira Baker (New Zealand): In the world of rugby, there aren’t too many players with the experience of Shakira Baker. A 30-year-old wing and full-back, Baker has a 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal to her name, as well as a Rugby World Cup Sevens winners medal from the same year also. With an Olympic Games silver medal in 2016 also, Baker will be bringing over a decade of professional experience to the Rugby Tens Championship.
3 – Waisale Serevi (Fiji): Fiji Sevens legend Waisale Serevi needs no introduction. With an international career that spanned the better part of two decades, Serevi won two Rugby World Cup Sevens competitions and medaled at three Commonwealth Games. His exploits on the field earned him the nickname ‘King of Sevens’ and the 54-year-old also went to three 15-a-side Rugby World Cups and since his retirement has coached his country in the World Rugby Sevens Series as well as Russia and Jamaica in recent years.
4 – Heather Fisher (England): A Rugby World Cup winner in 2014 with England, Heather Fisher developed a reputation as one of the best players in the women’s game. Excelling in both sevens and the 15-a-side game, the 38-year-old retired through injury in 2021. Playing at two 15-a-side World Cups, picked up a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Now coaching, Fisher returns to R10C after having been an assistant coach for the Serengeti Elephants in Portugal.
5 – Kyle Brown (South Africa): Having retired in 2019, Kyle Brown will be stepping into the broadcast booth as R10C makes its way to his home country. Representing the Blitzboks for 11 years, Brown made over 300 appearances for his country, won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro. Even winning three World Rugby Sevens Series, and playing at two Rugby World Cup Sevens, the 35-year-old will be adding his insight to the broadcast booth in Pretoria and Stellenbosch.
6 – Kat Merchant (England): Like Fisher, Merchant was another one of the players to win the 15-a-side Rugby World Cup in 2014. Representing her country for nine years in sevens and in the full format of the game prior to retirement on medical grounds, in the years that have passed Merchant has established herself as a personal trainer and as a broadcaster.
7 – Cecil Afrika (South Africa): For the past 13 years, Cecil Afrika has been one of the faces of rugby sevens. Making his debut in South Africa in 2009, the playmaker played at two Rugby World Cup Sevens, the most recent of which coming this year in Cape Town, where the 34-year-old was called into the Blitzbok squad after two years away from the team. A 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and two-time World Rugby Sevens Series winner, Afrika will be lending his years of experience to Cape Town Wild Dogs as an assistant coach.
8 – Chiharu Nakamura (Japan): In Portugal, Chiharu Nakamura was a star player for the San Clemente Rhinos in the first edition of the Rugby Tens Championship. An immensely experienced player, Nakamura will be returning to South Africa just weeks after representing her country at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town. Having played at two Olympic Games, the 34-year-old will certainly be one to keep an eye on.
9 – Andrew Amonde (Kenya): Making his debut for the Shujaa in 2012, 38-year-old Andrew Amonde has been the face of Kenyan rugby for a decade now. A veteran of two Olympic Games, at Tokyo 2020 the forward was a flagbearer for his country alongside women’s volleyball player Mercy Moim. Having represented his country at two Rugby World Cup Sevens, Amonde will be bringing plenty of experience to the Rugby Tens Championship.
10 – Mathrin Simmers (South Africa): Fresh from representing South Africa at the World Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town, Mathrin Simmers will bring with her plenty of experience. This includes having representing her country at two Commonwealth Games and two World Cups. Captaining the Balkans Honey Badgers last year in Lisbon, Portugal, Simmers is due to be one of the leading lights at the Rugby Tens Championship in Pretoria and Stellenbosch for the next two weeks.
The Pretoria leg will be played over the weekend of 7-8 October and the Stellenbosch leg will be hosted the following weekend 14-15 October.