Focus on experienced Afrika’s Paris return and Powell’s plan to experiment

Focus on experienced Afrika’s Paris return and Powell’s plan to experiment

It is indeed good news that Cecil Afrika, arguably South Africa’s best sevens player yet and the top scorer for the Blitzboks in his 61 tournaments, is back in the team, although it is as a replacement for injured players.

He has been called up after just more than a year’s absence for the last Sevens Series tournament of World Rugby in the 2018/19 series in Paris this weekend.

Afrika injured his hamstring a year ago in London and this will be his first appearance in the 2018/19 World Series, following a long rehabilitation period.

Afrika, a former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, is the Blitzboks’ leading points’ scorer of all time, with 1430 points in 61 tournaments and 318 matches.

It will be a special week in Paris for Afrika. A year ago, his dreams of celebrating a second World Rugby Sevens Series title with the Blitzboks in France were shattered when his hamstring ripped right off the bone in London.

The experienced playmaker limped back to Cape Town, not knowing that it would eventually take 12 months for him to return to the Springbok Sevens team. 

♦ Afrika and Mfundo Ndhlovu have been called up to join the Springbok Sevens team in Paris for the Paris Sevens as injury replacements for Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stedman Gans, and a day later, on Monday, Dewald Human left to replace place of Selvyn Davids who withdrew for personal reasons.

Arendse (concussion) and Gans (hand) picked up their injuries at the London Sevens and were ruled out of the final leg of the season. 

♦ With fourth position on the log secured and automatic Olympic qualification achieved, Powell is planning some experiments with his playing squad this weekend.  

“We still want to do well and end the season on a high, but to qualify with one tournament to go has given us a bit of leeway,” said Powell.  

“We want to start some of the guys who did not do so in the past and experiment with one or two players in a position where we could see them perform in future.” 

♦ Powell said the performance in London was not what they had wanted: “We are not happy with our consistency. We pride ourselves on our consistency in recent years, but our standards dropped this year with the bigger number of new players coming into the squad. That is something we will address in our culture as we continue our building phase.” 

♦ South Africa will face losing finalists in London Australia, Wales and Kenya in Pool B of the Paris Sevens on Saturday.  

The schedule for Saturday –

11:44 Wales

15:10 Kenya

18:58: Australia