Former Junior Springbok flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela will make his World Rugby Sevens Series debut in Singapore next weekend after being named in the Blitzboks squad for the fifth tournament of the 2022 season.
The former Cheetahs player is the only newcomer in the squad named by coach Neil Powell, who made three changes to the side that were triumphant in Seville the end of January.
Dobela, 23, will replace Justin Geduld after the veteran playmaker picked up a serious knee injury in that tournament, while regular captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi is also back leading the squad after missing the last tournament due to an injury suffered in Malaga the previous week.
The recently named 2021 SA Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Ronald Brown missed the Spanish tournament due to injury but is set to make a welcome return to action, replacing Branco du Preez (shoulder injury).
“It is great to have Ronald and Siviwe back again, while I am pleased that Lubabalo is getting his opportunity,” said Powell. “He joined the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in 2021 and has impressed from day one. I have no doubt that he is ready to perform at this level.”
Powell added: “The squad has been working hard in recent weeks and for good reason. We have done well in the series so far, but that counts for nothing and the players are well aware of that.
“Our focus will pretty much be on that first match in Singapore next weekend. We have not played since late January and will need to hit the ground running.”
Dobela was elated when Powell broke the news of his imminent Blitzboks debut.
“That was a great feeling, especially since I lost a family member recently, so the news really lifted my spirits,” said Dobela. “Coach told me to go out and make my mistakes as there are experienced players around me to take the weight off my shoulders. That eased the nerves and I am keen to back my skill set with this wonderful group of players.”
The Singapore Sevens was last held in 2019, with the Blitzboks overhauling Fiji in a dramatic final. The tournament will be hosted at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday and Sunday, 9 and 10 April, and will be followed by the rescheduled Canada Sevens, to be played in BC Place, Vancouver, on 16 and 17 April.
Springbok Sevens squad:
1. Sakoyisa Makata – 13 tournaments; 55 matches, 40 points (8 tries)
2. Ryan Oosthuizen – 27 tournaments; 133 matches, 145 points (29 tries)
3. Impi Visser – 17 tournaments; 86 matches, 90 points (18 tries)
4. Zain Davids – 28 tournaments; 141 matches; 130 points (26 tries)
5. Christie Grobbelaar – 7 tournaments; 34 matches, 65 points (13 tries)
6. JC Pretorius – 16 tournaments; 86 matches, 180 points (36 tries)
7. Ronald Brown – 4 tournaments; 24 matches, 185 points (17 tries, 50 conversions)
8. Selvyn Davids – 25 tournaments; 130 matches, 537 points (64 tries, 107 conversions, one penalty goal)
9. Lubabalo Dobela – on debut
10. Dewald Human – 13 tournaments; 58 matches; 178 points (14 tries, 54 conversions)
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain) – 35 tournaments; 182 matches, 585 points (117 tries)
12. Mfundo Ndlovu – 7 tournaments; 33 matches, 40 points (8 tries)
13. Darren Adonis – 4 tournaments; 22 matches, 42 points (8 tries, 1 conversion)
Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images