South Africa’s Sevens rugby team, the Blitzboks, powered their way to victory in the 2016-17 World Sevens Series, winning five of the 10 tournament while Seabelo Senatla was named as the world’s best player.
In the latest episode of the Power of Sport podcast, Jean Smyth sits down with coach Neil Powell, captain Philip Snyman & former skipper Kyle Brown at their base in Stellenbosch to discuss the reasons for their success.
The team is hailed across South Africa; not just for their achievements on the field but also for their diversity and the subsequent role they play in social cohesion. Brown told the Power of Sport that those that think they’ve suddenly hit on a winning formula haven’t paid close enough attention to their rise.
“Everybody wants to talk to us about our team culture, (as if it’s) something that just happened overnight and it just formed, and it was great; which is a load of nonsense. It didn’t just happen overnight and it didn’t just happen this season. Now everybody wants to figure out how do we emulate what they’re doing to make our players look as happy as our guys look on the field.
“In all honesty, we start with a good bunch of people, we help them enjoy themselves on the field and we make sure that they’re hungry when they get onto the field.”
While captain Philip Snyman puts the recent success of the team down to the fact that they’re not afraid of publicly stating their ambitions.
“Whenever we have a jersey presentation the coach always says: “listen, that’s not your jersey, you’re just borrowing that jersey for this tournament”. Neil Powell might go, Kyle and myself might go and everybody (currently) could leave the system but the Springbok Sevens will live forever and that’s the mentality.
“They want to leave the Springbok Sevens jersey and the brand in a better space and I think that’s the reason for our success, everyone wants to leave a legacy in that number.”
Not only did we sit down for a serious discussion but Brown, Powell and Snyman had the opportunity to play Blitz on one another – look out for the short video on Twitter and Facebook.
Also in this episode, the series of sporting-themed Mercedes-Benz breakfasts at dealerships across the country have come to an end and been a huge success. We travel to Cape Town ahead of the Springboks clash against the All Blacks to find out if there’s still life in one of rugby’s greatest rivalries.
Indian cricket star Yuvraj Singh becomes a Laureus Ambassador and tells us what sort of impact he’ll be looking to make with his new role.
And, we hear from Luvo Manyonga, who describes his journey from drug addiction to the summit of the athletics world. The world long jump champion and Olympic silver medalist along with previous guests in this series, The Longest Hole, can be voted for in the Laureus Sporting Moment of the Year.
SA Rugby president, Mr Mark Alexander, congratulated the Springbok Sevens team after they were named South African Sports Team of the Year at the annual SA Sport Awards in Johannesburg on Sunday evening.The prestigious SA Sport Awards are organised by the National Department of Sports and Recreation to honour, recognize and reward individuals and national teams that excel on the world stage.
“The Blitzboks have not only captured the very competitive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series crown in 2016/17, they also captured the hearts and minds of all South African sports lovers with their success, so this award is just reward to them,” said Mr Alexander.
“It is a fantastic achievement, not only for SA Rugby, but also for the country. The Blitzboks showed what teamwork is all about, they showed what passion is all about and they showed that a South African sports team can be the best in the world. I would like to thank and congratulate coach Neil Powell and his management team, and also the players for this.
“One should not forget Steinhoff International and ASICS, the sponsors backing the team either, as they make it possible for the team to deliver exceptional performances in a highly competitive series.”
Mr Alexander also thanked the Department of Sports and Recreation: “We work well together and share a vision that our national teams should be a beacon of hope and inspiration to the nation. Nothing brings a nation together like sporting success and we are very proud at SA Rugby that one of our national teams could be that flag bearer for the country.”
Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman and the Blitzboks’ leading try-scorer of all time, Seabelo Senatla, received the award on behalf of the team.
“We are very proud South Africans right now,” Snyman said.
“The acknowledgement is a huge honour for the team. We represent and play for all South Africans, so to be recognized in such a way really means a lot. We are about to start the next series and this will motivate us even more to retain our series title.”
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for 2017/18 kicks off in Dubai on 1 December, with the HSBC Cape Town Sevens a week later on 9 and 10 December.
Stormers and Western Province star loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe will be joining the Blitzboks for the upcoming 2017-18 Sevens Series.
Notshe have been great for Province and the Stormers for a couple of years now but never got the game time he deserved as a quality loose forward. It will be his first introduction to sevens rugby and sevens may be the right place for him to excel in.
The Sevens Series starts in Dubai in December before it will move on to the sold out Cape Town stadium.
Notshe have shown over the years that he has speed and agility for both the Stormers and Western Province and will be a asset to the sevens team.
All the facts are not yet out but it seems that Notshe will be part of the sevens tour fo rthe first four tournaments before joining the Stormers again for Super Rugby 2018.
They may have won the World Rugby Sevens Championships already but Powel Sevens Springboks wants to end the season with another tournament win this weekend in England.
The Blitzbokke have been absolutely brilliant this season and have been the best sevens side by far in the world this year wrapping up the championship before they even won the French title last week in Paris. They have only failed to reach one final this year and they will want to give themselves a change this weekend again in London.
That is the opinion of two of the Blitzboks’ speedsters, Ruhan Nel and Siviwe Soyizwapi, as the South Africans prepare for the tenth and final tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Series in London.
The Blitzboks are still driven by desire and team values, says Nel, who celebrated his 26th birthday in England’s capital on Wednesday.
“We are still playing for what that Springbok on the chest represents,” said Nel. “That means 100% dedication and commitment, 100% of the time. Nothing has changed because we won the series, we are still the same team who want to make the country proud and do the system justice.”
According to Nel, who was one of the leading tacklers in Paris, the team structure allows players to be at their best. “For me to make those tackles it meant that I felt my back was covered and that is what we are hoping to do as a team,” explained Nel, who is in line to play in his 100th match for the Blitzboks in London.
“Everyone will be stepped or beaten, but knowing there will be someone to back you up gives the confidence to go in hard.”
The winger missed last year’s London tournament due to a shoulder injury and is pretty keen to enjoy the Twickenham experience.
“The feeling in camp is good. The first couple of days are generally a bit slower as recovery takes priority and we will pick up the intensity as the tournament gets closer,” said Nel. “The pressure has been relieved a bit knowing that we have won the overall series, but we still want to finish well, as that was one of our objectives from the start. The guys are in a good space now.”
Soyizwapi, known as “Shakes” by his team-mates, agreed with Nel: “Everyone in the squad is feeling positive and is in a good head space at the moment. After that great tournament in Paris where we improved game by game and then clinched the title and the overall series, the guys are really feeling good. Having said that, it will not mean anything come this weekend. We will have to start over again and again play to the standards we have set.”
Soyizwapi, a product of the SA Rugby Academy in the Eastern Cape, is pretty aware that the Blitzboks will have a target on their backs as the new champions.
“We will have a very tough pool,” said Soyizwapi, who has scored 25 tries during the season. “Kenya, Wales and the USA are all class teams and they will not make it easy for us. It will be a testing day Saturday as there are no easy games out there anymore and those three are all tough opponents. We will have to stick to our process and structures to be successful.”
Fiji claimed their third straight Hong Kong Sevens title after beating the Blitzboks 22-0 in the Cup final on Sunday.
The defending champions came into this contest on an 18-match winning streak in Hong Kong, but had not won a Cup final since the corresponding fixture last year. In stark contrast, the Blitzboks were playing in their seventh final in as many events this season, of which they’d won four tournaments.
However, on Sunday the Blitzboks looked characteristically disjointed and failed to impose themselves on the game, with multiple handling errors and missed tackles the aggravating factors in their downfall.
All the early momentum was with South Africa, but Fiji struck the first blow with a try against the run of play when Sevuloni Mocenacagi dotted down. The Pacific Islanders weren’t done yet and crossed for a second try before the break to extend their lead to 10-0.
There was to be no respite for Neil Powell’s men at the resumption as Fiji maintained their stranglehold on the contest.
Kalione Nasoko burst through the Blitzboks defence to score under the posts before running in another towards the end to seal the victory.
The Blitzboks are through to the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens after a narrow 21-19 victory over New Zealand in a quarter-final encounter.
Converted tries from Chris Dry, Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok sealed the victory despite South Africa trailing 7-12 at half-time as well as a yellow card for Dylan Sage.
New Zealand scored through Regan Ware, Sione Molina and Sam Dickson.
The Blitzboks will now play the United States for a place in the final.
The match takes place at 09:53 (SA time).
The Springbok Sevens team on Friday started their HSBC/Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens tournament on a winning note, beating France 17-10 in their opening pool B match at the Hong Kong National Stadium.
The Blitzboks take on Kenya and Canada on Saturday in Day Two of the tournament, the seventh in the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Cecil Afrika, who became only the fifth South African to reach 50 tournaments in the series when he took the field, scored the decisive try against France after the teams were tied up at 10-all at the break. Two early tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi and Branco du Preez edged South Africa 10-0 ahead, but two quick tries by the French cancelled the lead.
Afrika then pounced for a 146th career try and Branco du Preez converted.
The match also saw the debut of Selvyn Davids, who became the 164th Blitzbok to play in the series.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was not too critical of his team’s performance.
“It was a long day and we only played 20h40 at night in the last match of the day, so it was not that easy to keep the guys focussed,” Powell said.
“We made some errors out there and that helped France to stay in the game, but we will be a better team because of it. Some of the youngsters got the opportunity to stretch their legs as well and they will benefit from that experience. They were put in pressure situations at the end of the match where they were supposed to keep the ball and they didn’t, but that is how you learn.”
The coach is pleased that the first match is out of the way.
“France is never an easy opponent and they pushed us all the way. It was a good start as it showed some areas we need to concentrate on better on Day Two. Which is exactly what we plan to do,” said Powell.
South Africa face Kenya at 07h56 (SA time) and Canada at 11h56 (SA time) on Saturday.
Defending champions Fiji made a perfect start at the Hong Kong leg of World Rugby’s Seven Series when they beat Japan 36-0 in their opening match.
There were also victories for World Series tabletoppers South Africa, New Zealand, England, Australia, Argentina the USA and Canada.
England’s win over South Korea saw Dan Norton scoring his 245th try to become the all time top try-scorer on the World Rugby Sevens Series, moving him above Kenya’s Collins Injera.
Australia kickstarted ther campaign with a hard-fought 22-19 win over Samoa in the tournament opener. The second match of the day was saw England cruising to an easy 52-0 win over South Korea.
South Korea were causing their European opponents some headaches in the opening exchanges, but England soon raced into a healthy lead. That fixture was all about Norton, who scored his notched his landmark with a trademark chip-and-chase score.
It was a day of great achievements for England’s players because Tom Mitchell, who led Great Britain to a silver medal in Rio last summer,also clocked up try number 100 of his career.
Canada held on for a narrow 17-14 win over Kenya with the Canucks’ with Nathan Hirayama becoming his country’s all-time top points scorer after converting Luke McCloskey’s early try.
Kenya drew level through a Dennis Ombachi try, but Canada hit back as two veterans combined for a beautiful score. Man of the moment Hirayama delivered a grubber kick forward and Harry Jones times his run to perfection to meet the pass and send his country ahead. Nelson Oyoo drew Kenya level again but, with the clock on zero, Hirayama kicked Canada to victory.
And in the day’s last match, South Africa had to work hard before beating France 17-10. The Blitzboks were fastest out of the blocks and two early tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi and Branco du Preez gave them a 10-0 lead.
But France were soon level thanks to tries from their captain, Terry Bouhraoua, and Jean Pascal Barraque. Cecil Afrika, who became only the fifth South African to reach 50 tournaments in the series when he took the field, scored the decisive try for South Africa.
New Zealand had to dig deep to beat Wales 19-7 with the match secured late on after the sides were level at 7-7 early on. The All Blacks drew first blood courtesy of a Tim Mikkelson try which put him fifth on the all-time try-scoring list.
Things went pear-shaped for Mikkelson, however as he was then yellow carded for slowing the game down and Wales made their numerical advantage count when Morgan Wiliams scored their try just before half-time.
New Zealand finished stronger, however, and secured the victory thanks to second half tries from DJ Forbes and Beaudein Waaka.
Fiji made a superb start against Japan after Vatemo Ravouvou did well to hold up possession before Jerry Tuwai stepped in brilliantly from the touchline to score.
Vatemo Ravouvou brought up his 50th Sevens Series try in style and there were further five-pointers from Joeli Lutumailagi, Apisai Domolailai and Tuwaias the Pacific Islanders cruised to a 36-0 win.
Argentina made a superb start in their opener against Scotland and were out of the blocks quickly as 30-year-old Gaston Revol skipped to the line to take advantage of some sluggish Scottish defending.
Scotland’s Jamie Farndale had levelled the scores prior to the break but Argentina struck back via a Matias Osadczuk try and Los Pumas eventually held on for a 22-14 win.
The USA were made to work hard in their clash against Russia but Mike Friday’s charges eventually claimed a 14-7 victory. Folau Niua produced a moment of magic with an audacious dummy that had every defender moving right, and that meant Niua could skip through the gap and dot down.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, USA went wide and speedster Perry Baker used his electrifying pace to cross over under the sticks. German Davydov took advantage of a tired-looking USA defence to get Russia on the board in the second half but Eagles did enough to secure the win.
Day One Results
Australia 22-19 Samoa
England 52-0 South Korea
Argentina 22-14 Scotland
USA 14-7 Russia
New Zealand 19-7 Wales
Fiji 36-0 Japan
Canada 17-14 Kenya
South Africa 17-10 France
Day Two, schedule – Saturday, April 8 (Kick-off is local time – GMT plus eight hours)
Australia v South Korea – 11:18
England v Samoa – 11:40
Argentina v Russia – 12:02
United States v Scotland – 12:26
New Zealand v Japan – 12:50
Fiji v Wales – 13:12
Canada v France – 13:34
South Africa v Kenya – 13:56
Samoa v South Korea – 15:18
England v Australia – 15:40
Scotland v Russia – 16:02
United States v Argentina – 16:24
Wales v Japan – 16:48
Fiji v New Zealand – 17:12
Kenya v France – 17:34
South Africa v Canada – 17:56
England erased an early deficit to defeat the Blitzboks 19-7 in the Cup final of the Vancouver Sevens. SARUgbyMag MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Blitzboks have been in irresistible form throughout the season, except when they play against England, a team responsible for all three defeats South Africa have suffered in the series.
England are also the only other team, beside the Blitzboks, to win a tournament (Cape Town and Vancouver events) so far in the series.
South Africa scored early through Siviwe Soyizwapi, but came under pressure for the rest of the first half in which they were forced to make 13 tackles and trailed England 40-15 in passes completed.
While their robust defence has to be commended, the dam wall eventually broke after the half-time hooter when Richard de Carpentier ran over Rosco Speckman to score. Tom Mitchell added the sideline conversion to level matters at the break.
During half-time, England’s coach could be heard urging his charges to ‘Attack, attack, attack.’ And they obliged, making the perfect start to the second half when Dan Bibby beat the Blitzboks’ rush defence with a kick in behind to score under the posts.
That try changed the complexion of the contest, as the Blitzboks nervously started to make a number of unforced errors. And two minutes after Bibby’s effort, speedster Dan Norton was away for England’s third after South Africa failed to secure the ball at a ruck.
Nevertheless, there was still plenty of time for a comeback and when Speckman went flying down the left-hand side of the field it looked as if the Blitzboks would score. But with no English defenders in close proximity, Speckman pulled up with a hamstring injury and dropped to the ground in agony.
Play went on, albeit with six men, but the Blitzboks seemed distracted by it all and couldn’t find a way past England again.
Day 2 Report
Werner Kok made a try-saving tackle in the in-goal area in stoppage-time as the Blitzboks ground out a 14-10 win over the USA in the semi-finals of the Vancouver Sevens.
In an attacking sense, this was far from South Africa’s best performance. They uncharacteristically gave the ball away too easily and conceded six penalties in the match. But when the occasion demanded it, the Blitzboks came up with one of the finest defensive efforts to aid their cause.
Martin Iosefo put the USA in the lead when after they halted a Blitzboks attack, effected turnover possession and scored at the other end. But the Blitzboks hit back through captain Philip Snyman, who ghosted through an opening after a couple of phases inside the 22. Cecil Afrika succeeded with the conversion for a 10-7 advantage at half-time.
Dan Norton flew down the left wing early in the second half, drawing the attention of three South African defenders, which created an overlap on the right flank. The USA recycled the ball quickly and Andrew Duratula dotted down to put his side back in the ascendency, although Madison Hughes failed to land the conversion again.
As has become customary, it took a moment of individual brilliance from Speckman to get South Africa back on track. The speedster put his head down and used sheer pace cut open the USA defence for an important try behind the posts, making it easy for Afrika to land the conversion.
With a four-point difference, the USA had an opportunity to heist a win at the death as they went side to side on attack right on the tryline, but there was no way through the resilient Blitzboks wall. With the clock moving into stoppage-time, Duratula made a play for the line, but Kok somehow managed to put himself between the ball-carrier and the grass to prevent what would have been a match-winning try
The Blitzboks will face England in the Cup final.
Day 1 Report
The Springbok Sevens team on Saturday topped pool A of the HSBC Vancouver Sevens and will face hosts Canada in the Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.
Wins over Chile and Kenya earned the passage into the last eight and a draw against England confirmed the top spot due to a better points’ difference to the South Africans.
This is the sixth consecutive Cup quarterfinal reached by the Blitzboks since the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series kicked off the 2016/17 season in Dubai.
The team had to dig deep to remain unbeaten on their North American trip though and had to defend for all their worth in their final pool match against England. The match finished in a 12-all draw.
The leading tackler in the World Series, Chris Dry, said their performances on Day One, especially against England, were not their best. “We made it very difficult for ourselves by not controlling the ball and England punished us for that. We scrambled very well at the end and credit to the guys for that. England is a difficult side to defend against, as they can score from anywhere. Us giving so much ball away helped them in their attack,” Dry said.
“We are pleased to finish top of the pool as that was the first goal for the day. That creates some momentum going into day two. No doubt, tomorrow will be another tough one. Canada will be pumped up, playing in front of this great crowd in this great stadium.”
The team knows what needs to be done, he believes.
“The key for us will be discipline and controlling the ball against them. If we control the ball, we will score points. Poor discipline also hampered us today and need to sort that out come tomorrow,” Dry said.
South Africa were the most penalised team on Day One, conceding 14 penalties and only awarded six.
Dan Norton opened the scoring for England early in the first half, before Rosko Specman ran 50 meters to score in the corner. Cecil Afrika converted for a 7-5 lead at the break. Dylan Sage scored early in the second half to extend the Blitzboks lead to 12-5.
Sage’s effort was countered by a second Norton try late in the second half, which was also converted. This left both teams in search of the win, but good defence confirmed the result.
Earlier in the day, Specman, who also made the most tackles for the team (12) and Ruhan Nel scored first half tries against Kenya, giving the Blitzboks a 10-lead at the break. Kenya did cut the deficit with a try of their own, but a try by Dry confirmed the 15-5 win.
The Blitzboks beat Chile 33-0 in their opening game after leading 14-0 at half-time. They ran in five tries, with Philip Snyman, Sage (2), Siviwe Soyizwapi and Dry all adding to their career tally. Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez added two conversions apiece.
Du Preez has kicked 83 conversions already his season, but admits that it was hard work out there.
“Scoring was not easy today, we had to work hard for all our points,” said Du Preez. “England is a tough opponent, but we know our system works for us and if we stick to it, we will be successful.”
South Africa had to make a late change to their team due to a foot injury sustained by Stephan Dippenaar and he was replaced by Sandile Ngcobo, the official reserve player.
Head to Head: South Africa played Canada 41 times, winning 36 and losing five. The average score is 27-9 and they last met in Las Vegas last weekend, where South Africa won 26-7.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, knows that the Blitzboks will have to endure another huge physical test when the HSBC Vancouver Sevens kicks off at BC Place on Saturday, but expects the mental challenge to his side to be even greater.
With the Blitzboks victorious in 28 of their 30 matches played in the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series so far, the target on their backs are getting bigger and England, who handed South Africa their only two defeats, will loom large in Pool A in Canada.
The Vancouver event is also the second in as many weeks, with bumps and bruises a natural consequence after some bruising matches in Las Vegas.
And the Blitzboks will have to make do without their two leading points’ scorers this season, with Seabelo Senatla (160 points) and Justin Geduld (119 points) not in Vancouver.
To Powell though, the biggest threat is his side’s mental focus.
“Unfortunately there is a lot of talk that we have the series sewn up, which cannot be further from the truth,” said Powell.
“One bad tournament, where you don’t make the semi-finals, could derail our momentum significantly. The last thing I want to players to think of is a fifth tournament win or our lead in the series and then getting ahead of themselves. We dare not to look past Chile in that first pool game.”
Chile has interestingly won the only encounter played between the two sides, by 28-21 in a pool match at Punta del Este in Uruguay in 2000.
“I don’t have to spell out how dangerous Kenya and England can be, so if we are not on top of our game, we could not even make the quarters,” Powell warned.
The South Africans have won 40 of their 46 matches against Kenya (average score 26-9) and 36 of 68 against England (average score 16-15).
“We did a solid review of our performance in Las Vegas and realised how many things we can still do better,” said Powell.
“We did some good things, but not enough to excuse us from working hard again this week to fine tune our game. I was pleased with the way we executed our ruck attack and how we kept the ball when we had possession.”
At the halfway mark of the ten-tournament series, the Blitzboks (107) hold a 24-point lead over Fiji (83), with England (81) close behind the Olympic gold medal winners.
Springbok Sevens player Rosko Specman is adamant that the Blitzboks team are far from the complete package, despite their good performances so far in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The South Africans have secured titles in four of the five tournaments and won 28 out of 30 matches, leading into the sixth event of the world wide spectacle, the HSBC Vancouver Sevens, to be played at BC Place on 11 and 12 March.
“We will never be satisfied, there is always room for improvement, even if it is just one percent,” said Specman, who was named Player of the Final in last weekend’s tournament.
“We were not at our best in Las Vegas, despite the fact that we won the tournament. We made a number of errors and our one on-one defence was not ideal, so we have a lot to work on this week.
“The individual performances come from a team effort and that is where our strength lies at the moment, I believe. We are playing for each other and really work hard to support each other. That structure and system allows the individuals to perform.”
The conditions in Vancouver, where the team were experiencing some snow and cold, is far removed from the heat in Stellenbosch, but according to Specman, that does not matter. The Blitzboks will face Chile, Kenya and England on Day One of the tournament on Saturday.
“Our hands might be cold, but our hearts are warm because we are together as a squad. Also, there is always some good coffee available in Philip Snyman’s room,” he quipped.
“Also, the arrival of Sandile Ngcobo brought some nice energy to us, so we are keen to get back to the hard yards.”
Ngcobo joined the squad in Canada as the official replacement player after Justin Geduld was injured in Las Vegas. Stedman Gans, who was the replacement in Vegas, has slotted into Geduld’s place and is pretty keen to run out in Blitzboks colours in Canada.
“This is a massive opportunity for me. I am here to learn, but also to do my best when I do get the chance,” said Gans, who represented the Junior Springboks last year.
Gans was on the bench for the final two matches of the tournament and although he did not take to the field, feels that he benefitted from the experience.
“Your whole focus changes if you know there is a chance that you can play, so it was exciting, although I did not take to the field. There were butterflies, but also positive nervous energy,” explained Gans, a former head boy of Waterkloof High School in Pretoria.
“My goals have not changed from last week. I still wanted to end this trip a better sevens player than when I left South Africa, so the fact that I might actually be playing is a nice bonus.
“It is almost unreal that I watched guys such as Cecil Africa, Branco du Preez and Rosko on TV all the time and now I am touring with them, with the possibility of actually playing in a tournament with them. They are very supportive and have all the experience, and they don’t mind sharing that with me.”
South Africa will kick off their Vancouver campaign against Chile at 21h18 (SA time) on Saturday evening, while their next two matches are early on Sunday morning (SA time), against Kenya (00h54) and England (04h34).
Regular Springbok Sevens squad member, Sandile “Stix” Ngcobo, has joined the Blitzboks in Vancouver as official reserve player for the HSBC Vancouver Sevens tournament to be played in BC Stadium on 11 and 12 March.
The backline player will provide cover to the starting 12-man squad as replacement player after Justin Geduld picked up an ankle injury last weekend in Las Vegas and was ruled out of the Vancouver tournament, the sixth of ten in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Stedman Gans, who travelled to the USA as back-up, replaced Geduld on the third day of the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens and will continue in this role for the Canada event. Ngcobo will take over the ‘Player 13’ role from Gans.
The travelling reserve has been introduced into the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for 2016/17 as part of World Rugby’s player welfare initiatives and has proved its worth for the Blitzboks already in the season.
Ngcobo travelled with the squad earlier in the year as back-up for the Wellington tournament, but then had to return to South Africa after a family bereavement. His replacement for the Australian leg of the tour, Stephan Dippenaar, got a playing opportunity when Werner Kok was injured and even scored a try in the final of the HSBC Sydney Sevens against England.
Gans also sat on the bench against the USA and Fiji on the final day in Las Vegas, but did not take to the field.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said he feels for Geduld, but accepted early in his coaching career that injuries are part and parcel of the game.
“We had our share of injuries already this year,” said Powell.
“We lost Tim Agaba and Carel du Preez in a pre-season tournament, then Kyle Brown in Cape Town and Cecil Afrika before travelling to Wellington and Sydney.
“Werner Kok could also not play on the second day in Australia and now Justin had to return home. On top of that, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith moved to the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, so our depth has been tested, but on the plus side, every injury creates an opportunity for another player to show his worth.”
Powell was pleased for Ngcobo.
“’Stix’ is a great squad member and although not always in the travelling group, someone who keeps on motivating the rest of the guys and training hard. You cannot win the World Series with only 12 players and we are fortunate to have players like him around as our back-up,” said Powell.
The coach was excited for Gans, who could feature in pool play on Saturday when South Africa takes on Chile, Kenya and England.
“We had a clear objective to blood the next generation of Blitzboks and Stedman falls into that category. He works hard, is willing to learn and presents something exciting for the future,” Powell said of the 20-year old who also represented the Junior Springboks last year at the World Rugby Junior World Cup in England.
The squad attended a school assembly in Vancouver on Tuesday and will start fine tuning their regular preparations in the remaining days leading up to the tournament.
The Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC Vancouver Sevens (with caps and points) is:
It was not the most clinical of performances, but the fact that they were able to come back every time when the chips were down, was the most pleasing aspect of the Blitzboks win at the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens, says Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell.
The winning coach was a proud and happy man after his squad beat Fiji 19-12 in the final to win a third consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament title and a fourth in the season.
“I am very happy. It was not our most clinical performance of the season at all, but we got the result and that is what was important. I would rather win ugly than lose pretty,” the coach admitted.
“The guys showed tremendous fighting spirit and always managed to come back and score the tries we needed to win the matches. They kept their focus and played very well in the second half of the matches, never giving up.”
The Blitzboks travelled to North America without stalwarts Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith, but still managed to claim top honours. Both are playing Vodacom Super Rugby.
“I thought Siviwe Soyizwapi and Dylan Sage did very well in taking over the roles of those two stalwarts. We are pretty blessed with our depth in the squad. It is good for the players also to realise that the structure is a sound one and as long as they look after it, the better the structure will look after them,” Powell explained.
He was pleased that they could extend the lead on the overall points’ log, but warns that half of the tournaments in the series still needs to be played. “We are in a good position, but we need to maintain our form and cannot think that things will just happen for us from now on. We need to stay grounded and start afresh, as we will need to do in Vancouver next weekend.”
The draw for the HSBC Vancouver Sevens was announced as well. South Africa will face Chile, Kenya and England in pool A.
Selected Team Facts:
The Springbok Sevens team has now won 28 of their last 30 matches played. England and Fiji (23) are next best in this regard.
They are also the leading try scorers at the halfway mark, with a 129 tries at an average of 4.3 per match. Fiji (126) is in second place and England (97) third.
Cecil Afrika extended his overall Springbok Sevens career points’ scoring record to 1183 points and also moved into ninth on the overall log.
Chris Dry (93), Philip Snyman (81) and Werner Kok (76) are the top three tacklers in the series this far. Seabelo Senatla leads the series in line-breaks (40) and tries (32).
The Blitzboks beat Australia 17-14 to set up a showdown with USA in the Las Vegas Sevens Cup semi-finals.
Australia pushed the more fancied South African side from start to finish. They caught the Blitzboks unawares to score the first try, and so nearly the scored the last, too.
The score was 7-7 at half-time. Every time Australia scored, South Africa managed to reply with a try of their own.
Rosco Speckman finished beautifully down the right wing to propel the Blitzboks into the lead at the end of the second half. South Africa then won a breakdown penalty to bring the game to an end.
The Blitzboks will meet the USA in the Cup semi-finals on day three. The hosts beat Argentina 21-19 in the second quarter-final.
Earlier on day two, South Africa beat Wales 21-7 to finish at the top of Pool A.
Springbok Sevens stalwart Branco du Preez celebrated his 50th tournament on the HSBC WoSeries with a try and a conversion, as well as some excellent tackling as his team swept past a physical Canada 26-7 in their opening game of the Las Vegas Sevens on Saturday.
Rosco Speckman scored a brace of tries and Ruhan Nel had a superb individual effort to thrwart the Canucks, who took an early lead when John Moonlight powered his way over the line.
Canada even led 7-5 at the break in a physical encounter before the superb Blitzbok defence turned the game in their favour, including Du Preez pulling off a superb try-saving one-on-one tackle on the 120kg Adam Zaruba in the second half to stop the Canadians scoring.
From then on the pace was added and when the bench came on the Blitzboks took control, with Du Preez scoring and converting the final try to seal a good opening win.
The Blitzboks clinched a convincing 31-0 win over France in their second pool game at the USA Sevens on Saturday.
The Springbok Sevens have emerged as frontrunners in the World Rugby Sevens Series this season after winning all but just one tournament, and again made an emphatic start to proceedings in the USA.
Earlier in the day, the Blitzboks cruised past Canada, and they then had very little trouble overcoming France, with Justin Geduld dotting down twice in the first half as they opened up a commanding 17-0 lead.
In France’s first clash of the tournament, they clinched an impressive 33-7 win over Wales, but they had no answer against the Blitzboks, with Siviwe Soyizwapi and Werner Kok going over to score in a one-sided second half.
Even 43 tournaments down the line, the idea of running onto a rugby field with his fellow Blitzboks still excites Springbok Sevens captain, Philip Snyman. Nothing will change this weekend when the team contests the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens tournament, the fifth of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
“It is hard to believe we are almost halfway through the series, but that does not take away any of the fun or commitment from the team,” Snyman said.
“The fact of the matter is, we still need to start from base, even after five tournaments. Nothing that happened in the first four will mean anything here in Vegas. We need to start from scratch, but have the hindsight of what worked previously. Those are laying a solid foundation, building momentum and believing in our structures and team mates.”
The experienced player, who has scored 246 points in his Blitzbok career so far, is comfortable with the abilities of the squad, despite been without the likes of Kwagga Smith, Kyle Brown, Tim Agaba and Seabelo Senatla.
“We have lost some personnel, but there are some new faces coming into the mix and fitting in very well,” he said. “I think we have prepared brilliantly and everyone is on the same commitment level. There is a good vibe in the squad and we want to get going.”
For Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, it is all about momentum and consistency when the team starts their Pool A commitments against Canada in the Sam Boyd Stadium (Saturday 04h43 SA time).
“We are aiming among other things to maintain those, because if we do, it will deliver a good result,” said Powell.
“We have lost the likes of Kwagga and Seabelo, but if the new guys can step in without disrupting our rhythm, we should be ok. They know what their roles are and I have faith in their abilities.”
Powell pointed to Siviwe Soyizwapi as their key man, having replaced Senatla: “We are lucky to have experienced campaigners such as Cecil Afrika and Stephan Dippenaar back in the mix, but I am keen to see Siviwe respond to the challenge of filling Sea’s boots. I think he is going to surprise a lot of people.”
The Springbok Sevens also play France at 07h42 on Saturday, with their final pool A match against Wales taking place on Sunday at 02h08 (SA time).
The Blitzboks work hard in order to be amongst the fittest contesting the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, but the welfare of squad members will always be a massive priority and player welfare remains a top priority, despite the challenge of a short turnaround time between tournaments.
This was confirmed by the Blitzboks’ conditioning coach, Allan Temple-Jones, upon the team’s arrival in the USA for the fifth tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
“We need to tweak here and there, depending on the circumstances, but because we have a broad base to work from, we are able to do that,” said Temple-Jones from Las Vegas, where the team is preparing for the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens.
“The two-week turnaround between tournaments is pretty flexible and we might drop a contact session for a cross-training session if the guys need that.
“It was a tough turnaround from Wellington and Sydney, so our key focus this time around was basically to get the guys training again. We mix up the training with the intensity building up towards the end of the two weeks.”
The strength and conditioning specialist, who has been with the team since 2007, points to the good work ethic of players on tour and the hard work put in by the squad members staying behind as a reason for their good fitness levels.
“The guys push each other during these sessions and back home, the guys are in the very capable hands of Marius Schoeman and Paul Delport of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy, so we manage to keep those levels up,” Temple-Jones said.
The Springbok Sevens have won in Las Vegas three times since the tournament was moved there and Temple-Jones has been involved in all those wins. The HSBC Las Vegas Sevens take place at the Sam Boyd Stadium from Friday 3 March until Sunday 5 March.
The Blitzboks arrived safely in the USA after a 36-hour trip from Cape Town via London and is keen to get their preparations going for the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens, the fifth tournament of ten in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell said it was good to finally arrive in Nevada after the long trip from South Africa, although their travel was a bit easier than last season.
“It is a tough trip, but luckily it was straight to Las Vegas from London,” said Powell.
“Last year we had to travel from London to New York to Phoenix and then only on to Las Vegas. This time was a little bit better, but is was still a 36-hour trip from leaving home till arriving at our hotel here in Vegas.”
Powell will ease the players into training this week.
“I am happy where we are with our preparations and will take it slow at the beginning of the week,” said the Blitzbok coach.
“Our first game, against Canada, is late on Friday (early Saturday morning SA time), which means that we can still have our captain’s run on the Friday morning.”
Powell arrived with a fit squad, something he is pretty pleased about.
“The turn-around between the tournaments is quite short and the guys do pick up bumps and bruises, but I am happy with the squad’s fitness. There is still one or two things we need to work on, but I am happy that we have enough time to sort out those small margins,” said Powell.
South Africa will face Canada (Saturday 4 March, 04h43 SA time), France (Saturday 4 March, 07h42 SA time) and Wales (Sunday 5 Match, 02h08 SA time) in Pool A of the tournament.
The Springbok Sevens team completed a memorable few days with the announcement on Tuesday that Steinhoff International – the integrated retailer with operations in Africa, Europe and Australasia – had agreed a three-year partnership to sponsor the national team.
The Springbok Sevens team – who were named SA’s Sports team of the Year last month and crowned champions of the South African leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for a third successive time on Sunday – will wear the name of the Frankfurt and Johannesburg-listed company for the first time at the Wellington Sevens in New Zealand at the end of January.
Steinhoff’s sponsorship of Sevens rugby will also extend to the Springbok Women’s team and the SA Academy men’s team.
“This is terrific news for Sevens rugby in South Africa and we’re delighted to welcome Steinhoff International into the South African Rugby Union family,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU.
“In the past the Sevens’ team sponsorship had been ‘bundled’ in with that of the 15-a-side team but the game has developed in recent years and the Springbok Sevens team and Sevens brand have now matured to the point where it merited a separate focus.
“From personal experience with the Varsity Cup I know how effectively Steinhoff International work at leveraging their sponsorships and I am sure the Sevens team, our Women Springboks and Sevens Academy will feel the benefit of Steinhoff’s involvement.
“It’s a tribute to the power of the Springbok Sevens brand that we have attracted the attention of such a major international player as Steinhoff. The profile of Sevens rugby has increased significantly in recent years and its inclusion in the Olympic Games is set to enhance that. This is a further very exciting development for Sevens rugby.”
Markus Jooste, CEO of Steinhoff International, said: “The Springbok sevens team is a natural progression for Steinhoff in associating ourselves with this fast-paced sport, enthusiastic fans, and leading team into the global arena, where most of our businesses are also based.
“The attention that the sport and event creates in cities such as Paris, Hong Kong, London, Sydney and Cape Town will enhance our corporate brand in these important retail markets for Steinhoff.
“We also want to congratulate the team for a brilliant performance during the last weekend, we will be a proud sponsor of such a passionate and committed team. The team is a young, exciting tribute to where rugby and South Africa is headed and we’re looking forward to this new partnership.”
The new sponsorship will be formally launched in the New Year.
Call it a comeback. On day one, the Blitzboks were off the pace and had to scrap just to qualify for the Cup play-offs. On day two, however, they were the best team on show and ultimately deserved winners of the inaugural Cape Town tournament.
The other major contenders failed to pitch. Fiji fell to France in the Cup quarter-finals. An injury-hit New Zealand went down to Argentina at the same stage.
South Africa saved their best for the business end of the tournament. They were too strong for Australia in the quarter-finals and then France in the penultimate game. And in the grand final, the Blitzboks were a cut above Argentina in terms of physicality, composure, and finishing.
The Pumas scored in the third minute of the decider through German Schulz. But South Africa responded immediately, just as they had done in matches against Australia and France.
Rosko Specman provided the spark with a brilliant solo try. South Africa worked hard at the breakdown, and captain Kyle Brown was one of the standouts with several important turnovers. It was from one counter-attack where Justin Geduld opted to grubber through the defence. Seabelo Senatla read the play well, and the collected the loose ball to complete an important score.
Specman snatched his second try in the final minute before half-time. Argentina would have the final say, though, with Axel Muller scoring to narrow the deficit to 17-14.
The Blitzboks played with power and precision in the second stanza. Senatla scored his second try of the evening to give the hosts an important eight-point lead. A thrilling linebreak by Cheslin Kolbe then culminated in a score for Rayno Benjamin. It was the score that put the result of the match, and the tournament, beyond all doubt.
The Blitzboks have successfully defended their South African title. The victory in Cape Town marked their first tournament win since the success Port Elizabeth in December 2014.
Kenya, who recorded a shock win over the hosts on day one, finished the tournament in fourth place.
Cup: South Africa 29 Argentina 14
Plate: Fiji 29 USA 19
Bowl: Scotland 19 England 0
Shield: Samoa 40 Russia 5
Springboks Francois Hougaard and Juan de Jongh were on Wednesday named in a strong Springbok Sevens 12-man squad for the first two HSBC World Sevens Series tournaments of the new season in Dubai and Cape Town.
The season kicks off on 4 and 5 December with the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, which is followed a week later by the inaugural HSBC Cape Town Sevens, on 12 and 13 December, at the Cape Town Stadium.
Hougaard has played in 35 Tests for the Springboks and recently joined the Sevens squad on a one-year contract. He is set to make his World Series debut in Dubai, while DHL Western Province centre and skipper, De Jongh (14 Tests), return to the Springbok Sevens fold for the first time since making his first and only appearance for the side in Wellington in 2008.
Werner Kok, the newly-crowned World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Cheslin Kolbe (DHL Western Province) and last season’s top-try scorer on the World Series circuit, Seabelo Senatla, will combine with regular stalwarts Cecil Afrika, Justin Geduld and Ryno Benjamin (Toyota Free State Cheetahs) to form a potent Blitzbok backline attack.
The tough-tackling Benjamin is set to make his 30th World Series appearance while skipper Kyle Brown is on course to play in his landmark 50th tournament in his hometown of Cape Town.
The durable Brown, Philip Snyman, Kwagga Smith and Chris Dry will provide the necessary steel upfront and complete a strong selection who will defend their crown in Dubai. The Springbok Sevens are also the current tournament champions in South Africa.
That forward line-up means there is unfortunately no place for veteran Frankie Horne, who will instead run out for the SARU Sevens Academy side in the Dubai International tournament. The omission of Horne brings to and end an incredible run of 68 consecutive World Series tournaments.
Players not considered because of injury are Branco du Preez (shoulder), Warren Whiteley (calf) and Oupa Mohoje (knee, out for eight weeks).
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell said it was an extremely tough task to reduce the large training group to just 12 players for the first two tournaments of the season.
“The entire training group worked very hard and the competiveness amongst the group of players made this my toughest selection job yet,” admitted Powell.
“I am confident that the squad we are taking to Dubai and Cape Town will give a good account of themselves. This is the most important Sevens season ever, with the bigger World Series set to be even tougher than last season. I think teams would want to position themselves for the 2016 Olympic Games, meaning there will be little room for error.”
Commenting on the omission of Horne, Powell said: “Frankie has been an unbelievable servant for South African Sevens rugby and I am sure he will bounce back even stronger.”
South Africa are grouped in Pool B alongside Scotland, Samoa and newly-promoted core team Russia. The squad travel to Dubai on Sunday, 29 November and departure time from the Cape Town International Airport is 13h30.
The Springbok Sevens squad for the opening World Series tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town are (SARU contracted unless specified, number of World Series tournaments in brackets):
Blitzbokke veteran Frankie Horne said players from the 15-man game will be welcomed to Sevens if they make themselves available for selection ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.
There’s plenty of excitement ahead of Sevens’ debut at next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janerio. All Blacks stalwarts Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messan will be available for Sevens selection in New Zealand’s 2015/2016 World Series campaign.
There has been plenty of interest from specialists of the 15-man game who want to play Sevens with the aim of representing their countries at the Olympics. The Blitzbokke hosted the likes of Bryan Habana, Schalk Brits and JJ Engelbrecht at training in Stellenbosch.
Horne said the Blitzbokke hope to build the strongest possible squad for the Olympics and that’s why they are encouraging more 15-man specialists to contribute to the shortened version of the game.
“We will always welcome new players who believe they can add value,” Horne told MyPlayers.co.za.
“It’s an exciting time for sevens rugby, which has grown so much in recent years. This has given rugby players the opportunity to be part of the biggest sports event in the world – the Olympic Games.
“I wasn’t surprised to hear about Liam Messam and Sonny Bill Williams wanting to play Sevens rugby for New Zealand. The top nations will all ensure the best players are available for selection, including South Africa.
“From a South African perspective, the players will need to make the sacrifice and dedicate time to the code. The requirements state that each player needs to play at least two World Series tournaments to qualify for Olympic selection.
“So, the players who want to be involved will need to make the effort.”
Horne believes those players can excel and add value in both platforms of the game.
“Guys like Warren Whiteley, Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla, Cheslin Kolbe and Cornal Hendricks have excelled in sevens and 15s rugby, which is not easy,” said Horne.
“They have proven that some players can add value in both codes, and they’ll be exciting talents to watch over the next year heading into the Olympics.
“It must be noted that it’s easier to move from Sevens to 15s, but it’s really difficult to adapt from 15s to sevens, especially without prior experience. So the guys who want to cross codes need to be patient and dedicate time to learning more about sevens rugby.
The Springbok Sevens remain top of the HSBC Sevens World Series after finishing third in the Wellington Sevens in New Zealand, the fourth in the international series of eight tournaments.
South Africa head the log with 76 points halfway through the World Series, six points clear of New Zealand, who moved into second place. The top four sides on the log will gain automatic qualification into the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Springbok Sevens captain Kyle Brown admitted that his team were mentally slow to adapt to the pressures of the New Zealand tournament. He was pleased though that the side responded well under pressure on the second day of play.
“We had to maximise the points from this tournament after our slow start. I am pleased in the way we finished against Scotland, that was 14 minutes of good sevens rugby we played. There is still a lot to work on though if we want to improve in the USA,” Brown said.
“We came back well today. We were in a dark hole after our poor showing on day one and the guys responded very well today. We know we are a capable team, the actual battle is the one in our heads. It is just a matter of getting our minds right and play the type of rugby that we know we can.”
Stalwart Frankie Horne, who extended his world record to 63 consecutive HSBC tournaments, also looked at the positive side of things.
“Make no mistake, we were shocked on day one, but we gradually improved and played much better today. Our concentration lapsed in the final minutes against New Zealand and we paid the price. We are still pretty pleased with third place overall. It was pleasing to see the way the younger players responded when given a chance against Scotland. We now have some nice momentum going into Las Vegas.”
The South African Blitzboks opened Day Two in convincing fashion by beating Kenya 19-5 in the Cup quarterfinal. They came up short against New Zealand in the semifinal though, losing 17-7 before rebounding strongly against Scotland, beating them 40-7 in the third place final.
Against Scotland, the log-leaders finally showed the form that brought them success in Dubai and South Africa.
They did concede a try soon after the start of the match, but raced away from Scotland in the remainder of the match. Leading 28-7 at the break, they scored two more times in the second half to win going away. Rayno Benjamin, Kyle Brown, Seabelo Senatla (2) and Warrick Gelant (2) scored tries, with Branco du Preez converting five of those.
In the earlier semifinal against New Zealand, some poor kicking cost the South Africans. New Zealand struck first with a well-worked try, before Kwagga Smith scored a brilliant team try. Having just lost Seabelo Senatla to a yellow card, the Blitzboks turned over possession near their own line. Some great interplay and interpassing saw Smith dotting down at the other end of the field.
The hosts showed more composure in the second half and defended a 12-7 lead well. A late try by New Zealand after a wayward hack by a South African player sealed the 17-7 win.
The Springbok Sevens started the day in Wellington’s Westpac Stadium with a solid 19-5 win over fellow African team, Kenya.
Michael Wanjala scored first for Kenya after some sloppy defence by South Africa, but they scored three tries after that to secure the result.
A try by Frankie Horne pulled back the deficit just before the break and Branco du Preez’s conversion took the Blitzboks into a 7-5 lead at the break.
Second half scores by Cecil Afrika and Justin Geduld secured South Africa their fourth consecutive semifinal berth.
Defending champions New Zealand have won their first title of the season, defeating England 27-21 in the Wellington final.
The draw for the next tournament, in Las Vegas, USA next weekend was also made. In Pool B, South Africa are joined by hosts USA, Portugal and Japan. New Zealand head Pool A and face Fiji, Wales and Samoa. England will meet Kenya, Argentina and Canada in Pool C and Brazil will play Scotland, Australia and France in Pool D.
The HSBC Sevens World Series Standings after four tournaments are:
The Springbok Sevens have announced an unchanged squad for the defence of their home Cup title, the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament.
Port Elizabeth will host Round 3 of the HSBC Sevens World Series at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this coming weekend on 13 and 14 December.
Blitzboks coach Neil Powell and his squad will also attempt to become the first South African team to successfully defend their home title.
The Springbok Sevens captured the Dubai crown last weekend with some sparking displays on day-two in the famous desert city, defeating Argentina, New Zealand and Australia during their successful march to the Cup.
That display enabled South Africa to move two places up the World Series log standings into second place where they are now just two points behind leaders Fiji, who lead with 39 points.
In naming an unchanged squad, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said the decision was easy after their success in Dubai.
“The players all deserve to be in the squad after that performance in Dubai. Every World Series tournament is an extremely tough and demanding event and there is no room for complacency,” cautioned Powell.
He added: “It is wonderful for the squad to play on home soil, in front of our own supporters. The players have really enjoyed their stay in the City and the support we have received so far is fantastic. We hope to make them proud again this weekend,” said Powell.
The top four teams on the final log standings at the end of the nine-tournament World Series will qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Several Blitzboks will surpass some unique milestones this weekend. Playmaker Cecil Afrika needs just 12 more points to better the all-time points scoring record of 925 held by Blitzboks legend Fabian Juries.
Branco du Preez will play in his 35th tournament this weekend, which places him on the SA Sevens honours board alongside the likes of Juries, Marius Schoeman, Mzwandile Stick and Frankie Horne.
South Africa are the top seeds in Pool A and will battle it out for a group qualification place against Wales, the USA and Kenya.
Springbok Sevens day-one fixtures on Saturday are:
12h42 – vs USA
15h58 – vs Kenya
19h58 – vs Wales
The Springbok Sevens team to play in the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth (Round 3 of the HSBC Sevens World Series – WS caps in brackets):
1. Ruhan Nel (2)
2. Philip Snyman (26)
3. Frankie Horne (61)
4. Kwagga Smith (8)
5. Werner Kok (11)
6. Kyle Brown (41, captain)
7. Branco du Preez (34)
8. Rayno Benjamin (26)
9. Warrick Gelant (1)
10. Cecil Afrika (32)
11. Seabelo Senatla (12)
12. Cheslin Kolbe (7)
• Frankie Horne is the only player in the history of the HSBC Sevens World Series to play 61 consecutive tournaments. He will extend that record to 62 in PE.
• Cecil Afrika (914*) could pass Fabian Juries (925) as the top points scorer for the Blitzboks in the HSBC Sevens World Series
Ruhan Nel became the 155th player to represent South Africa in the World Series in the Gold Coast and Warrick Gelant, who made his debut in Dubai, is the 156th.
• South Africa are the defending Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens champions
Hundreds of rugby fans turned up to meet the Springbok Sevens at a signing session held at Cleary Park Mark Mall in Port Elizabeth. The Sevens stars are in the Friendly City to defend their Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament title.
Round 3 of the HSBC Sevens World Series takes place this coming weekend at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The signing session is part of SARU’s promotional efforts to raise awareness for the annual Sevens showpiece.
South Africa are one of 16 internationals participating in the two-day tournament, on 13 and 14 December. The Blitzboks are defending their home crown and will attempt to become the first SA side to win back to back home titles.
Last weekend the team won the Dubai Sevens tournament in style after outplaying Australia in the final and beating arch rivals New Zealand and Argentina in the semi-final and quarterfinals respectively.
Addressing the enthusiastic crowd, Springbok Sevens captain, Kyle Brown, said the team was delighted to be back in South Africa to play in their home tournament. “The PE fans gave us a fantastic welcome when we arrived on Monday night and the turnout today was absolutely amazing.
“There are a couple of new guys in the squad and they were absolutely delighted by the amazing turnout and passionate support we experienced today,” said Brown.
Warrick Gelant, who celebrated his Springbok Sevens debut with a first World Series try last weekend in Dubai, marvelled at the passionate Blitzbok supporters. “Everywhere we go the people are so supportive, congratulating us on our performance in Dubai and wishing us well for the weekend. It is nice to have so much support behind us,” said Gelant.
SARU and the event organising partners have again laid on a fantastic entertainment programme for the event, with well-known local artists MiCasa, Jimmy Nevis and DJ Fresh set to add their unique showbiz performances to the Sevens extravaganza.
Tickets to the two-day Sevens showpiece cost just R30 and are available from Computicket and all Money Market outlets at Shoprite and Checkers stores.
The Springbok team announcement media conference will take place on Thursday, 11 December at the Garden Court Kings Beach hotel, Summerstrand. Location is the Albertina Room, Lower Ground Floor Level and the starting time is 14h00.
Three South African Sevens representative teams will be in action over the next three days in a festival of international Sevens rugby action in Dubai.
The Blitzboks take to the field on Friday morning (5 December) in Round 2 of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, hoping to improve on their fourth place in Round 1 at the Gold Coast in October. Their pool opponents are Portugal, Canada and Wales.
The SA Sevens Academy side warmed up for their participation at the Dubai Invitational event with a convincing Cup win last week in Harare. Their group opponents are Georgia, Poland and The Royals.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens are also in Dubai competing in the Women’s Sevens World Series, which concludes on Friday. The team suffered defeats against Australia and France and secured a 17-17 draw against Spain earlier on Thursday.
SuperSport 6 will broadcast all the Dubai Sevens (World Series) live from 07h00 on Friday. Follow the progress of the Blitzboks and the other two South Africans teams on Twitter @Blitzboks and the Springbok Fan Page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/springsboks.
The SA Sevens Academy (Samurai) fixtures on Friday at the Dubai Invitational (SA time; Dubai 2 hours ahead of SA) are:
09h28 vs Georgia
11h40 vs Poland
15h30 vs The Royals
The Springbok Sevens fixtures on Friday at the Dubai Sevens (SA times):
Springbok wing Bryan Habana has been placed on standby for the Team South Africa Sevens squad at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the South African Sports & Olympic Committee confirmed on Tuesday.
Habana’s availability followed a decision by his club Toulon, in agreement with the French Rugby Federation (FFR), to make an exception and allow Habana to play during a rest window during which all French Top 14 players are normally prohibited from playing.
The release came after the deadline for the submission of squads for the Commonwealth Games and, therefore, the leading scorer in Springbok history is unable to join the team preparing in Glasgow.
However, he has been cleared to be placed on the Team SA Sevens standby list. His availability means that should there be an injury in the Team SA squad, Habana would be allowed to compete, should he be required by the coaches. He was named in the original squad.
The Sevens squad plays three matches on Saturday, against Trinidad & Tobago, the Cook Islands and Kenya, before the knockout matches and medal games on Sunday.
The Springbok Sevens team had an emotional capping ceremony on Thursday, only hours before the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament kicks off in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium and the South Africans face hosts Russia in Pool B of the competition.
Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARU) asked captain Kyle Brown and his team to ‘keep Madiba in their hearts’ as they ran out in their effort to win the Melrose Cup for the first time.
Mr Hoskins and SARU CEO Jurie Roux took part in a ceremony where the 12 squad members were given their caps and match jerseys.
“We as rugby people owe former President Mandela so much and it would be very fitting if we can win this title with the Springbok emblem on our jerseys, the badge of honour former president Mandela was so keen to protect,” Mr Hoskins said.
“We all know he is not well, so a good performance here will be a fine way to show support to his legacy as the father of the nation and a custodian of rugby.”
Springbok Sevens captain, Kyle Brown, who will incidentally be wearing the number six on his back, just as Francois Pienaar in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in South Africa, said his team are ready to confront their destiny.
“It is a massive honour for us standing here. We know we represent so many back home. There are others who are good enough to be here, but could not, like the injured Frankie Horne and Paul Delport, and we owe it to all South African players to just give our best and leave nothing out there.”
According to Brown, they are physically and mentally ready.
“The hard work has been done, our magnificent coaching staff and the support staff and families back home have done their bit to get us ready and now is the time for us to deliver. We accept the responsibilities of playing for our country at a World Cup and will try and embrace the challenge,” Brown said.
South Africa play Russia at 17h14 (South African time) in their Pool B match.
New Zealand have fallen in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens rugby tournament, but have still managed to increase their lead in the world series points table.
February 11, 2013 – 11:39AM
Chris Dry of South Africa is tackled by Warwick Lahmert in New Zealand in the Cup final. Photo: AP
New Zealand have fallen in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens rugby tournament, but have still managed to increase their lead in the world series points table.
After being taken to extra time in their semi-final, the All Blacks Sevens were beaten 40-21 by South Africa in the title decider.
The South Africans effectively had the match won by halftime, up 28-0 through two tries to Chris Dry and one each to Warren Whiteley and Branco du Preez.
It was the second year in a row that New Zealand have lost the Las Vegas final, after going down to Samoa last February.
Despite the defeat, the defending world series champions extended their lead in the standings by two points to 23, with South Africa taking over second spot and Samoa third.
The open nature of this season’s competition is shown by the fact that the five rounds so far have had five different winners.
There are four rounds to go, the next being the glamour Hong Kong event on March 22-24.
Meanwhile, Australia crashed out of contention for the main prize, but claimed the Shield with a 41-0 win over Uruguay.
The Australians found themselves contesting the Shield in the fifth round of sevens world series after leaving the pool stage with just one win from three and falling to England in the Bowl quarter-final.
Coach Michael O’Connor said inexperience and a lack of mental toughness cost his team.
“I’m bitterly disappointed, I’m not happy,” O’Connor said.
“We’re a young squad and we find it difficult to get mentally to where is needed. We have to get tougher mentally. You need mental toughness to tackle that second tournament.”
The South African Under-18 Men’s team dominated the first day of the sevens competition of the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival, held at the St Ignatius College on Friday morning in Sydney (SA time).