The Blitzboks have named their most experienced squad ever for the first tournament of the 2017-18 World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai.
Regulars Kyle Brown, Kwagga Smith, Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla have all returned to the squad, while Tim Agaba is the only player in the team who did not travel to Dubai last year.
The Blitzboks are laden with experience, with the average number of tournaments per player standing at 37, the highest average ever for a Springbok Sevens team in the world series tournament.
‘We are fortunate to be in this situation,’ coach Neil Powell commented. ‘There was a concerted effort to broaden our player base last season as we knew we would lose Seabelo and Kwagga after four tournaments, but then we lost Kyle and Justin to injury as well, and that certainly tested us.
‘Despite blooding a handful of new guys last year, we still have the benefit of a really solid squad. We were blessed with the lack of injuries, especially as a number of the players had a stint in fifteens as well.’
Powell feels that the mental challenge will be as big as the physical one.
‘We know we can win tournaments if we believe in our systems and structures. The reality is that we will have a target on our backs this year, being the defending champions, not only in the series, but also in Dubai. We need to keep on believing that we can maintain the standards we have set as a team.’
Meanwhile, Siviwe Soyizwapi will lead a talented academy squad to the Dubai Sevens international tournament, where Stormers star Sikhumbuzo Notshe is set to receive his first taste of sevens action.
Blitzboks squad: Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Tim Agaba, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Kyle Brown, Branco du Preez, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Marco Labuschagne (replacement player).
Academy squad: Gift Dlamini, JC Pretorius, Sako Makata, Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ryan Oosthuizen, Stedman Gans, Zain Davids, Dewald Human, Mosolwa Mafuma, Impi Visser, Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Photo: Simon Borchardt