Dual goal for Powell as he balances present stars with Super Rugby players

Dual goal for Powell as he balances present stars with Super Rugby players

It’s an Olympic year, and for the second time the world’s rugby focus will switch to sevens when the top 16, including the Blitzboks who were bronze medallists, do battle in the Tokyo Olympics towards the end of July 2020.

But meanwhile it is important for coach Neil Powell to also win tournaments when the World Sevens Series when the 2019/20 season kicks off in Dubai on Thursday and to identify his best players for the Games.

He has picked a number of last year’s stalwarts, and also some big names like all-time top points scorer Cecil Afrika and most-capped Blitzbok of all time Branco du Preez, in the Academy side that will play in the International Invitational competition in Dubai.

Another stand-out Blitzbok, Werner Kok, is also in the Academy side.

Powell has also selected some players for the World Sevens tournament in Dubai who have experience of winning the World Rugby Sevens Series but who won’t be part of his team after the first two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town.

The coach said his squad selection for the opening tournament was made easier by the form and desire shown by the likes of Rosko Specman, Ruhan Nel, Seabelo Senatla and Dylan Sage, who are all players that will return to their Vodacom Super Rugby franchises in the new year.

“Everyone in the squad will get the opportunity in the series, and what they do with that will be crucial for them. These four players will move on to fifteens after the two legs, but that was not why they were included. They showed the desire and form to be here and that made selecting them easy," Powell explained.

SA Rugby Communications report that the Springbok Sevens squad will shift their focus to game day on Thursday at the Dubai Sevens after a recovery gym session upon arrival in Dubai on Sunday to get rid of any aches and pains from the 10-hour flight.

The Blitzboks – who finished last year's World Rugby Sevens Series in fourth place – will kick off the 2019/2020 Series against Kenya on day one of the tournament before meeting Spain and England on Friday. The knock-out stages will play out on Saturday.

 “Everyone in the squad will get the opportunity in the series, and what they do with that will be crucial for them. These four players will move on to fifteens after the two legs, but that was not why they were included. They showed the desire and form to be here and that made selecting them easy," Powell explained.

As six-time winners of the tournament, the Blitzboks are expected to be in the mix again, and for playmaker Specman, the tournament is the first opportunity for the squad to lay down a marker for the remainder of the series and the year that will finish off with the 2020 Olympic Games.

♦ Specman won bronze in the Rugby Sevens at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 and he admits that a “different” medal around the neck in Tokyo would be massive, but he said a lot still needs to happen, so he will not get ahead of himself.

“We all want to be in Tokyo and do well, but that is way into the future,” said Specman. “The Dubai and Cape Town tournaments are both very enjoyable for us as a squad and we intend to express ourselves at both of them.”

 Specman’s creativity on the inside will benefit Seabelo Senatla, South Africa's all-time leading try-scorer in the World Series.

Senatla is also back with the squad with Tokyo as his end goal, but he insisted that the focus is local for now.

“We are pretty much focused on the here and the now, and the preparations in the last couple of weeks have been on the immediate results.

“Our pool in Dubai is a tricky one and the three days of the tournament will each pose a different challenge, so our ability to switch on and switch off will be as important as going out there and doing our thing on the field.”

SA teams to Dubai – 

The Blitzbok squad

  1. Chris Dry (68 tournaments, 342 matches; 465 points, 93 tries)
  2. Ryan Oosthuizen (17 tournaments,83 matches; 85 points, 17 tries)
  3. Dylan Sage (24 tournaments, 134 matches; 155 points, 31 tries)
  4. Zain Davids (18 tournaments, 88 matches; 60 points, 12 tries)
  5. JC Pretorius (five tournaments, 27 matches; 55 points; 11 tries)
  6. Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain; 28 tournaments, 145 matches; 445 points, 89 tries)
  7. Selvyn Davids (14 tournaments, 69 matches; 300 points; 31 tries, 71 conversions, 1 penalty)
  8. Rosko Specman (28 tournaments, 150 matches; 380 points; 70 tries, 15 conversions)
  9. Justin Geduld (46 tournaments, 239 matches; 951 points;104 tries, 214 conversions, 1 penalty)
  10. Kurt-Lee Arendse (four tournaments, 16 matches; 45 points, nine tries)
  11. Seabelo Senatla (39 tournaments, 203 matches; 1120 points, 224 tries)
  12. Ruhan Nel (28 tournaments, 147 matches; 247 points; 49 tries, 1 conversion)
  13. Christi Grobbelaar (on debut).

Pools
South Africa face England, Spain and Kenya in Pool D of the tournament. The 2018/19 World Rugby Sevens Series champions Fiji will face France, Argentina and Japan in pool A. In pool B USA, Australia, Scotland and newcomers Ireland will battle it out. New Zealand, Samoa, Canada and Wales are in pool C.  

SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad

  1. Hacjivah Dayimani
  2. James Murphy
  3. Impi Visser
  4. Angelo Davids
  5. Werner Kok
  6. Branco du Preez
  7. Dewald Human
  8. Malcolm Jaer
  9. Darren Adonis
  10. Cecil Afrika
  11. Mfundo Ndhlovu
  12. Stedman Gans (captain)

Management: Marius Schoeman (coach/manager), Sandile Ngcobo (assistant coach), Nadia Clenzos (physiotherapist).

Fixtures (SA times)

Thursday, 5 December:
11:20 – Rambling Jesters
13:20 – French Military
 Friday, 6 December:
10:40 – Russia Development