Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi will skipper the South African men’s sevens team at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where Team SA will look to emulate Neil Powell’s 2014 class of gold medallists.
Springbok Sevens captain Soyizwapi and Zain Davids are the only players who will make a second appearance for SA at the Games, but for the remainder of the squad this showpiece will be a new experience.
Powell, who will return to the Games as coach for a third time, named the duo in a 13-man contingent that consists only of contracted Blitzboks, after the likes of Jordan Hendrikse and Seabelo Senatla were among the Vodacom United Rugby Championship stars previously named in Team SA’s sevens squad.
Also omitted but initially selected are sevens veteran Ruhan Nel and Kurt-Lee Arendse, who made his Springbok debut in the series win over Wales and is now tipped to feature strongly in the Rugby Championship.
According to Powell, a well-prepared group of players will leave for England this weekend. “I really think there is a good balance between experience and youth in the squad, with a number of younger players who have done well and put up their hands in the last two seasons who got their reward,” he said.
“We find that the younger guys bring a very nice energy to this team and if we channel that well and in the right direction, it will benefit the team.”
Powell was pleased with the last three weeks of preparation, adding: “We looked at areas in our game where we came up short in the last four World Series tournaments we played and focused on those to improve our effort overall.
“We said that those were the areas we need to be better in order to be successful. From a physical perspective, I believe the guys also worked hard and made a step up to add to the resilience and mental toughness in the team. We had a very tough week last week, but the guys came through that very well.”
SA are scheduled to play Malaysia, Tonga and Scotland in their pool in Birmingham, where Powell believes a good start will create the right platform for them to perform.
The team kicks off against Malaysia before facing Tonga on Friday, 29 July, before concluding the pool fixtures with a tricky encounter against Scotland on Saturday, 30 July.
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) July 10, 2022
SA claimed gold in Glasgow shortly after Powell took over the coaching reins, but missed out on a podium finish in 2018 at the Gold Coast in Australia.
Meanwhile, Springbok women’s sevens head coach Paul Delport has named six new caps in his squad for the UK event, with Asisipho Plaatjies set to lead the team for the first time.
Mathrin Simmers and Unathi Mali are the only two survivors from the 2018 tournament, where the women’s competition for sevens was introduced for the first time.
SA men’s team – Sakoyisa Makata, Christie Grobbelaar, James Murphy, Zain Davids, Angelo Davids, JC Pretorius, Ronald Brown, Selvyn Davids, Shaun Williams, Dewald Human, Siviwe Soyizwapi (c), Muller du Plessis, Mfundo Ndhlovu.
SA women’s team – Unathi Mali, Asisipho Plaatjies (c), Kemiketso Baloyi, Donelle Snyders, Luleka Tyibilika, Anacadia Minnaar, Nontuthoko Shongwe, Kyla de Vries, Felicia Jacobs, Mathrin Simmers, Zandile Masuku, Liske Lategan, Bianca Augustyn.
Photo: Twitter: @Blitzboks