The SA U18 Sevens squad will begin their Youth Olympic Games campaign with matches against Japan and France in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Marius Schoeman, who will coach the side, made only two changes to the team that successfully defended their African Youth Games title in Algeria in July, which allowed them to qualify for the tournament in Argentina, with Diego Appollis and Mnombo Zwelendaba featuring in the 12-member squad.
Schoeman’s charges will also face the USA and Argentina at the Club Atletico San Isidro Sede la Boya on Sunday, and Samoa on Monday in the pool stage.
‘This is the first time that we will participate in the Youth Olympic Games and we are very excited about the challenge,’ said Schoeman.
‘Our biggest challenge is the fact that we have not had much time together as a squad as a result of examinations and the school programme, but we all agree that this is a fantastic opportunity to prove ourselves.
‘This tournament will serve as a big boost in the players’ development and for our Sevens structures, as it will offer the players the best possible chance to test themselves against the top sides in the world in a prestigious international event.
‘The last big international event we participated in was the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2015 in Samoa, and we won that tournament.
‘Almost 80% of that squad has achieved higher honours in the sport, with the likes of Damian Willemse, Embrose Papier and Curwin Bosch earning Springbok caps, while Stedman Gans, Heino Bezuidenhout and Mfundo Ndhlovu have gone on to represent the Springbok Sevens, and Hacjivah Dayimani and Manie Libbok have become key figures in the Currie Cup.
‘This shows what opportunities such as these offers these young players.’
SA U18 Sevens squad – Diego Appollis, Ross Braude, Christie Grobbelaar, Celempilo Gumede, Kobus Hattingh, Louwan Horn, Dawid Kellerman, Muzi Manyike, Ofentse Maubane, Tiaan Pretorius, William Rose, Mnombo Zwelendaba.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images