It is all systems go for the inaugural NBM 7sPL tournament at the picturesque Outeniqua Park in George with all 12 teams ready to lay claim to the R1 million prize money that will be on offer.
Six provincial outfits will battle it out with six corporate teams to become the first winners of the NBM tournament and looking at the big names that have converged on the Garden Route for this showpiece, a couple of million rand performances should be the order of the day when play starts on Friday.
The Lions, Blue Bulls, Sharks, Western Province and Boland arrived with a good sprinkle of experienced names and young upstarts, most notably a good fistful of the Junior Springboks who won the IRB Junior World Championship earlier this year, but it is the presence of some serious Super Rugby beef that shows the intent of the Cheetahs to walk away with the spoils.
They have included the likes of Raymond Rhule, Sarel Pretorius and Boom Prinsloo, with Rhule keen to be the star of the show.
The young Springbok flyer will find celebrity status spread thin though, as some of the most distinguished names in the sevens code will grace the Outeniqua Park turf.
The likes of top points scorer on the IRB circuit, Ben Gollings and BlitzBok legends like Fabian Juries, Jonathan Mokuena, Mzwandile Stick and Jongi Nokwe has set the world alight in the shorter code, with Nokwe part of a very unique debutant team – soccer giants Kaizer Chiefs.
The team will be coached by Gcobani Bobo and captained by Breyton Paulse, who both played sevens and fifteens for the Springboks and already created much interest.
Their sporting cross-over appeal were further strengthened with the appointment of Makhaya Ntini as team manager, with the former Proteas strike bowler adamant that his presence will up the team’s work ethic.
Paulse, who is making a comeback for this tournament, said the excitement is almost touchable.
“We know one thing is for sure and that is that the unexpected is definitely going to happen. We are all in with chance and that will make this tournament a very, very exciting one to attend.”
Gollings will play in the NBM All Stars team, while Juries forms part of the team, coached by the highly rated Darryl Weir, who has coached at international level before.
Perhaps the excitement to the younger group of players was best scripted by Blue Bulls fullback Clayton Blommetjies.
“I honestly cannot wait for tomorrow. I cannot wait,” the emerging star said with great enthusiasm.
Tournament promoter Willem Strauss confirmed that they are expecting a very good crowd on Friday.
“We have, after requests from the public, made another 2000 tickets available at R100 each which can be purchased from either Computicket or the stadium. The interest and support from the locals has been tremendous and the expected presence of inland holidaymakers is going to create a great vibe. We are ready to have a great first tournament.”