Same mindset amongst fresh challenges for Blitzboks
The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Springbok Sevens squad who will play in Spain this weekend for the first time since the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series started way back in 1999.
Tournaments in Malaga and Seville have been added to the World Series, in place of Hamilton and Sydney, and in addition to the excitement of playing at new venues, Springbok Sevens captain Siviwe Soyizwapi is also happy to welcome back Wales, Scotland and England to the normal ebb and flow of the circuit.
These countries participated as Great Britain last year in Canada and Dubai – where the 2022 series kicked off – all four tournaments which were won by the Blitzboks and where they had to beat the combined UK squad on the way to glory.
“Yes, it is almost a fresh start to the year, as we are heading off to Spain and not Australasia as we did in the past,” Soyizwapi said upon departure from Cape Town to Malaga via Frankfurt on Sunday evening.
“There is excitement because of the new venues and added to that the return of Scotland, Wales and England will be welcomed by all. It gives a new dynamic to the Series again, and it gives us different challenges.
“It is always good to be tested in different ways and having three ‘new’ opponents, as familiar as they were in the past, is great for the tournament and the squads playing.”
Soyizwapi welcomed the return of a number of senior players to the squad to Spain, with five changes made to the victorious Dubai group.
“Despite the unknown element of new venues, the calming part of the tour is the fact that we have five guys back from injury,” he said. “We have most of the guys back from injury now in our wider squad and that will make things easier.
“We don’t need a different approach on how we want to do things, the five guys who came back are all very experienced and all have played for us before. They looked sharp in training and showed why they were selected in the first place.”
Soyizwapi also applauded the way Justin Geduld, Mfundo Ndhlovu, Sako Makata, Darren Adonis and Dewald Human slotted back into the team environment.
“Although they might not have played in recent tournaments, their attitudes remained spot-on and they are still living the culture, which is great,” he said.
The Blitzboks were due to play England and Scotland as well as Fiji in Pool A, but the latter had their travel plans delayed due to positive COVID cases. World Rugby will make an announcement on Fiji’s participation in due course.
Geduld’s inclusion is one of five changes made to the squad for the first World Series event at Estadio Ciudad de Malaga. The experienced playmaker will return from injury alongside Sako Makata, Dewald Human, Mfundo Ndhlovu and Darren Adonis.
Geduld last played in a World Series event in Sydney in 2020, while Makata, Adonis and Human featured in the shortened 2021 series, playing in Vancouver and Edmonton, with Human captaining the Blitzboks in the Vancouver event.
Ndhlovu makes a welcome return to the squad having last played in Vancouver in 2020, after which the remainder of the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The five returning players replace Tiaan Pretorius, Ronald Brown, Shaun Williams, Muller du Plessis and Shilton van Wyk from the squad that won consecutive tournaments in Dubai late last year, with those victories handing the South Africans an early lead on the 2022 standings and a first seed ranking in Spain.
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said selecting the team was not an easy task, but he feels that the squad named will be as competitive as their ranking suggest.
“We are lucky to have most of our squad available again, with only Muller du Plessis not available due to injury,” said Powell.
“We also made a call to give Ronald Brown a rest as he has a slight knee strain and we decided not to risk him, but rather to recover as soon as possible.
“The Dubai group did really well, but with Justin, Sako, Dewald and Mfundo available again, we opted for some experience this time around.
“It is great to have Justin back with all his experience of 50 World Series tournaments and he would slot into Ronald’s role, while Sako, Dewald and Darren really played well in Canada, but sadly picked up injuries after that.
“Mfundo will be a straight swop for Muller and we are delighted to have him back as well. He was injured just before the Olympics last year, and I am pleased that his hard work is paying off. He will surprise many at this tournament, I am sure.”
Powell said the fact that they will be playing at a new venue will create excitement amongst the players.
“All the participating teams will be experiencing a new venue, which will ensure a level playing field and the fact that we will not have any time zone issues, will be another plus for us,” he said.
“There will be no jet lag for us, like we normally experience when travelling to New Zealand and Australia, so we are looking forward to the trip.”
Springbok Sevens squad:
- Sako Makata – 11 tournaments, 46 matches, 35 points (7 tries)
- Ryan Oosthuizen – 25 tournaments, 123 matches, 125 points (25 tries)
- Impi Visser – 15 tournaments, 76 matches, 80 points (16 tries)
- Zain Davids – 26 tournaments, 132 matches, 115 points (23 tries)
- Christie Grobbelaar – five tournaments, 24 matches, 40 points (8 tries)
- JC Pretorius – 14 tournaments, 77 matches, 170 points (34 tries)
- Branco du Preez – 77 tournaments, 392 matches, 1378 points (98 tries, 441 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)
- Selvyn Davids – 23 tournaments, 120 matches, 468 points (53 tries, 100 conversions, 1 penalty goal)
- Justin Geduld – 50 tournaments, 260 matches, 1034 points (111 tries, 238 conversions, 1 penalty goal)
- Dewald Human – 11 tournaments, 51 matches, 167 points (13 tries, 51 conversions)
- Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain) – 34 tournaments, 181 matches, 580 points (116 tries)
- Mfundo Ndhlovu – five tournaments, 23 matches, 25 points (5 tries)
- Darren Adonis – two tournaments, 12 matches, 32 points (6 tries, 1 conversion)
Thys Lombard joined the Blitzbokke at a training session for the tournament in Spain this coming weekend. Fiollwo him on Instagram as thyslombard. Install the app to follow his photos and videos. https://www.instagram.com/invites/contact/?i=rr3ph9w226l0&utm_content=h4kefl