Cecil Afrika, the Springbok Sevens’ all-time leading points’ scorer, is back in the 13-man squad that will travel to North America on Saturday where they will contest the next two tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The HSBC Las Vegas Sevens will be played in the Sam Boyd Stadium from 3-5 March, and the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver will host the HSBC Canada Sevens on 11-12 March.
Afrika, who has scored 1167 career points, missed the Australasian leg of the World Series, where the Blitzboks won back-to-back tournaments in Wellington and Sydney. He was struggling with a knee strain, but has now fully recovered and is fit to go.
The inclusion of Afrika is one of two changes to the squad that played in Australasia, with Stephan Dippenaar the other. They replace Seabelo Senatla (DHL Stormers) and Kwagga Smith (Emirates Lions), who have both joined their Vodacom Super Rugby franchises.
Dippenaar was a late replacement in Sydney for Werner Kok, who has also recovered from the calf strain picked up there and will travel to Las Vegas.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said he was lucky to have experienced campaigners Afrika and Dippenaar back to replace Senatla and Smith.
“We knew that the time would come for us to play without Seabelo and Kwagga and that time is now,” said Powell.
“The fact that we have two proven players to slot in is indeed a bonus. Cecil has scored over a 1000 points in the series and Stephan has been part of squads that won the Las Vegas tournament in the past, so I am pretty pleased.”
Powell added debutant Stedman Gans to his squad, with the former Junior Springbok and SA Schools back travelling as the 13th player or official reserve, as per World Rugby agreement.
Gans played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in Dubai in December and has been training with the national team since November last year.
“We have to build some depth and experience in the group and Stedman has proved in training that he is ready to play at this level. Zain Davids showed in Wellington and Sydney that our systems are in place and this will be a good learning curve for Stedman, no doubt,” Powell said.
The Blitzboks top the overall standings following three wins in four tournaments and will be keen to extend their lead in Las Vegas, a venue where they have won three times since 2010, when the USA leg of the series was moved to Nevada.
The squad will again be captained by Philip Snyman and according to the 41-tournament veteran, the experience of Afrika and Dippenaar will help him.
“Cecil was playing great rugby in Dubai and Cape Town and Dippies has been part of winning tournaments in the past, so it is great to have them around,” said Snyman.
“Both are strong leaders in their own right and will help me in that regard as well. We all know what our roles are and if we execute that, we will be very competitive.”
The Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens (with caps and points) is:
The BlitzBokke have taken their third title in four finals when they beat the English in Sydney Cup Final on Sunday….
Appearing in their fourth final from as many events, the Blitzboks headed into Sunday’s clash as favourites, but England would have had reason to be confident after beating the Springbok Sevens on day one.
England had also managed to get the better of the Blitzboks in the final of the Cape Town Sevens last December, which is now the only tournament they have failed to win this season.
Although the Blitzboks displayed some indifferent form on day one in Sydney, they built up some healthy momentum on Sunday, with good wins over the USA and Australia enabling them to progress to yet another final.
They continued to ride that wave of momentum as captain Philip Snyman finished off a well-worked move within the opening minute of play, while Seabelo Senatla then put on his dancing shoes to ghost past a couple of defenders and score a superb try.
At the stage it looked as if the Blitzboks would take a handy 12-0 into the break, but they pounced on an error from England as Justin Geduld dotted down with the final play of the half to send his side into an effectively unassailable 19-0 lead.
Again, the Blitzboks’ abrasive defence was a feature of their play as they dominated the breakdown and repeatedly held up the England ball carriers in the tackle. Indeed, having won a turnover as a result of this strong defence, the Blitzboks then recycled possession before Geduld went over to score his second try soon after the restart.
Tom Mitchell and Dan Norton did score towards the end of the clash to add some respectability to the scoreline for England, but in between, Stephan Dippenaar went over for the Blitzboks’ fifth try in the title decider.
The result sees the Blitzboks extend their healthy lead at the top of the World Rugby Sevens Series, and they now look increasingly well-placed to win their first title since the 2008-09 season.
England 14-29 South Africa
New Zealand 29-14 Australia
Fiji 35-12 USA
South Africa 26-12 Australia
England 12-5 New Zealand
Fifth Place semi-finals
USA 19-10 Wales
Argentina 21-38 Fiji
England 24-7 Argentina
New Zealand 24-21 Fiji
USA 10-21 South Africa
Wales 0-26 Australia
Russia 26-0 France
13th Place play-off
Kenya 5-10 Canada
Japan 12-19 France
Russia 17-12 Samoa
13th Place semi-finals
Canada 33-20 Papua New Guinea
Kenya 19-14 Scotland
Kenya 0-22 Russia
Scotland 14-21 Samoa
Canada 7-19 Japan
France 17-0 Papua New Guinea
Standings after four rounds:
1 South Africa 85
2 England 68
3 Fiji 64
4 New Zealand 56
5 Scotland 45
6 Australia 40
7 Wales 40
8 USA 35
9 Argentina 35
10 France 35
11 Kenya 27
12 Canada 24
13 Samoa 16
14 Russia 16
15 Japan 8
16 Uganda 4
17 Papua New Guinea 2
James Rodwell scored a late try to hand England a comeback 21-15 win over the Blitzboks at the Sydney Sevens on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the Springbok Sevens overcame Japan and Kenya, but failed to look all that convincing in the manner they went about their business.
Their indifferent form then came back to haunt them when they sacrificed an eight-point lead in the second half against England, with Dan Norton and Rodwell scoring in the latter stages to hand their side a win that sees them finish top of the pool.
The Blitzboks still finish second in the group, and will have the opportunity to compete for the Cup title on Sunday, but they will now have to do it the hard way.
Just as England did in the Cape Town Sevens final, they threw the Blitzboks off their usual free-flowing game, with Phil Burgess striking an important early blow when he scored an opportunistic try after just a couple of minutes of play.
South Africa quickly hit back with a superb solo try to Seabelo Senatla, while a beautiful cross-kick from Justin Geduld then set up Chris Dry for a five-pointer that put the Blitzboks 10-7 up at the break.
Just after the restart, Geduld then turned from provider to try scorer with a superb solo run that opened up a handy eight-point buffer, but the Blitzboks then lost their way, and it was England who pounced to finish day one undefeated.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed later on Saturday that the influential Werner Kok has been ruled out of the tournament due to a calf injury sustained against Japan.
Kok has been replaced by Stephan Dippenaar, who just joined the team yesterday. Dippenaar himself was a late replacement for Sandile Ngcobo, who had to return to South Africa for a family bereavement.
‘It was bad for us as Werner is one of our starting players and is playing very well at the moment,’ coach Neil Powell commented. ‘The next guy must now step in and shows what he can do, that is what the system is all about.’
Stats and facts:
• South Africa vs USA head to head: Played 42, South Africa won 37, Average score 26-8. Last met at Cape Town Sevens 2016, South Africa won 28-10.
• Seabelo Senatla has extended his all-time try-scoring record for the Springbok Sevens team to 186. He is also the leading try-scorer in the 2016-17 series with 30 tries.
Only England and New Zealand enjoyed perfect pool records on Day One of the Sydney Sevens while Wales also made the quarter-finals.
The trio finished top of their pools with USA winning the other group as the quartet now face Argentina, Fiji, Australia and South Africa respectively.
England finished ahead of the Blitzboks in Pool A after beating the series pace-setters 21-15 in their final pool game while New Zealand overcame Australia 26-14 in their opening match, which proved vital in Pool C.
Wales stunned Olympic champions Fiji 28-15 to finish as top dogs in Pool B and in Pool D USA managed to beat Argentina and Canada to the summit, despite losing to Russia in their last fixture of the opening day.
England v Argentina
New Zealand v Fiji
USA v South Africa
Wales v Australia
Challenge Trophy quarter-finals
Kenya v Russia
Scotland v Samoa
Canada v Japan
France v Papua New Guinea
Day One results
Argentina 19-22 USA
Canada 12-7 Russia
France 12-14 Wales
Fiji 40-0 Samoa
England 19-12 Kenya
South Africa 32-0 Japan
New Zealand 26-14 Australia
Scotland 26-12 Papua New Guinea
Argentina 19-14 Russia
Canada 19-31 USA
France 17-14 Samoa
Fiji 15-28 Wales
England 26-0 Japan
South Africa 14-7 Kenya
New Zealand 31-7 Papua New Guinea
Scotland 14-43 Australia
USA 14-17 Russia
Canada 17-17 Argentina
Wales 7-7 Samoa
Fiji 31-7 France
Kenya 17-12 Japan
South Africa 15-21 England
Australia 26-7 Papua New Guinea
Scotland 7-14 New Zealand
Sydney will be the fourth Australian city to host a leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series when the carnival heads back to these shores on this weekend
The Harbour City follows in the rather large footsteps of Brisbane, Adelaide and the Gold Coast as fans of all different cultures and allegiances from across the globe descend on Sydney.
Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane hosted Australia’s first-ever World Series leg in February 2000, the hosts only pipped by a magical try from Fijian legend Waisale Serevi in the dying moments as the Pacific Islanders won the Cup Final.
After a one-year hiatus, Ballymore once again hosted a World Series leg, this time in February 2002. Richard Graham and Cameron Pither were among the try scorers as the Aussies defeated trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand for what is still the green and golds solitary triumph on home soil.
Ballymore hosted a leg once again a year later before the a three-year gap which then saw the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) take the round to Adelaide, hosted at the iconic Adelaide Oval.
It was in South Australia that the event remained for five years (2006-2010) before the Australian leg headed north to Queensland once again and the glitter strip of the Gold Coast. Robina Stadium was home to the Australian leg of the Sevens World Series for four years between 2011-2014, the home side’s best performance being a runners-up berth in October 2013.
The ARU confirmed its decision to move the Sevens to Sydney in March 2015, to be hosted at the 45,500 capacity Allianz Stadium. In 2016, 16 teams played at the inaugural Sydney 7s – Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, USA and Wales, with World Rugby inviting one additional country from the Pacific Islands.
All you need to know about the Sydney Sevens weekend:
Friday – 3 Feb
Saturday – 4 Feb
Sunday – 5 Feb
All games played at Allianz Stadium
Games played at Allianz Stadium and Kippax Field
All games played at Allianz Stadium
12.00: Gates Open
12.30: First Game
13.36: Women’s AUSTRALIA vs Brazil
16.18: AUSTRALIA vs Ireland
19.00: AUSTRALIA vs Fiji
19.44: New Zealand vs Canada
08.45: Gates Open
09.30: First Men’s Game, Allianz Stadium
10.00: Women’s Cup Quarter-Finals, Kippax Field
11.42: New Zealand vs AUSTRALIA, Allianz Stadium
14.04: Women’s Cup Semi-Finals, Allianz Stadium
14.34: Women’s Challenge Trophy Final, Kippax Field
15.59: Scotland vs AUSTRALIA, Allianz Stadium
17.15: Women’s Bronze Final, Allianz Stadium
17.42: Women’s Final, Allianz Stadium
20.35: AUSTRALIA vs Papua New Guinea, Allianz Stadium
09.45: Gates Open
10.30: First Game
11.58: Cup Quarter-Finals
14.25: Challenge Trophy Semi-Finals
15.53: Cup Semi-Finals
16.37: Classic Wallabies vs Famous Fijians
17.24: Challenge Trophy Final
18.24: Bronze Medal Match
18.51: Cup Final
Here is a bit more on the players that will represent the BlitzBoksthis weekend in New Zealand.
Physical: 1.91m & 95kg, DOB: 13/02/1988, Cape Town
Education: Grey Primary, Grey College (Bloemfontein), Central University of Technology (CUT), Bloemfontein.
Other Squads: Free State (Schools Academy, Under-19, Under-21, Vodacom Cup, Absa Currie Cup)
Dry will be one of the core players for Coach Neil Powell in this series. A very mobile and strong player, Dry brings physicality, line-out skills and grunt to the team. His experience and leadership will be an added bonus. The third most capped player in South African sevens history.
Snyman’s decision to forfeit a career playing Vodacom Super Rugby to play sevens has reaped huge benefits. He has become a very important squad member due to his versatility and is equally adapt playing in the forwards or backs. He can also kick at the poles as well when needed. Named captain of the side for the 2016/17 season.
Physical: 1.88m & 97kg, DOB: 24/01/1992, Cape Town
Education: Wynberg Boys High Junior, Wynberg Boys High, Varsity College
Other squads: UCT (FNB Varsity Cup), DHL Western Province Under-21; SARU Sevens Academy; Olympic Games 2016 (bronze medal)
Sage played his way into the Springbok Sevens team via the SA Rugby Sevens Academy system. The winger/fullback first got noticed starring for the Ikeys Tigers in the FNB Varsity Cup, which led to an invite to trial with the SARU Sevens Academy side in Stellenbosch.
Sage made his debut at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens in 2015 and quickly established himself in the squad. He can easily adapt playing in the forwards or backs and was named as a forward for trip.
Other Squads: Team SA Commonwealth Games 2014; Pumas (Coca-Cola Craven Week), Xerox Golden Lions (Under-19, Under-21, Vodacom Cup, Absa Currie Cup), Junior Springboks 2013, Springboks Sevens Elite Development squad.
Tournaments: 26 – debut Port Elizabeth 2013, 255 points (51 tries). Also CWG Glasgow 2014 (gold medal); Olympic Games 2016 (bronze medal)
Equally adapt in fifteens, Smith enjoyed a Currie Cup title won with the Xerox Golden Lions in 2015 and also captained the team in 2016. The former Junior Springboks player has been massive in the Springbok Sevens jersey, where his work-rate, strong defence and forceful running caught the eye. It was no surprise that Smith made the HSBC World Series Dream Team in the last two season as he had numerous strong performances for the team.
Education: Nelspruit Primary, Nelspruit High School
Other Squads: Team SA Commonwealth Games 2014; Pumas Grant Khomo Under-16; Craven Week Under-18; DHL Western Province Under-19, DHL Western Province Currie Cup; SA Elite Player Development Sevens; Olympic Games 2016 (bronze medal)
Tournaments: 21, Debut – London 2013 (250 points, 50 tries)
Kok is another product of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy system. The World Player of the Year in 2015 suffered a setback in Dubai last year, injuring his knee and missing the rest of the series. He recovered well and was selected for the squad to the Olympic Games. He also played for DHL Western Province on the wing in 2016.
Kok is rated as the hardest player to train against by all his team mates.
Physical: 1.78m & 88 kg, DOB: 07/12/1992, Mthatha
Education: Maclear Primary, Dale College
Other squads: Border Craven Week, SA u18 High Performance, EP Kings Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup, Southern Kings
Tournaments: 4 – debut Hong Kong 2016, 30 points (six tries)
Soyizwapi has been knocking on the door for a while now. He played in the SA Rugby Sevens Academy team at a number of tournaments where he showed a natural feel for the game, an eye for a gap and good speed. “Shakes” as he is called by team mates, has played Super Rugby for the Southern Kings in 2013 and is earmarked to take over the impressive try-scoring duties from Seabelo Senatla.
Branco du Preez
Physical: 1.66m & 75kg, DOB: 08/05/1990, George
Education: Van der Hoven Primary & PW Botha College (George), Harmony Sports Academy, Virginia, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Pretoria
Other Squads: Team SA Commonwealth Games 2014; Griffons (Coca-Cola Craven Week, Under-19); TUT (FNB Varsity Cup), Blue Bulls (Under-19, Under-21), South Africa (Under-20)
Dynamite comes in small packages and Du Preez certainly provides just that with his explosive pace and lightning breaks. His value as a reliable goal-kicker has helped the team immensely in recent seasons and it is no surprise that Du Preez is amongst the top-scorers for conversions kicks of all players in Wellington.
Specman is one of the most elusive runners in the game today. He has a wicked step and great pace, a lethal combination on attack. No wonder the former Cell C Sharks player was such a sensation on the wing for Steval Pumas and he was duly named Absa Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year in 2014.
Physical: 1.75m & 80kg, DOB: 01/10/1993, Cape Town
Education: Webner Primary, Tygerberg HS, Cape Town
Other Squads: Team SA Commonwealth Games 2014; DHL Western Province Schools Craven Week, Under-19, Under-21 and Absa Currie Cup; SA Under-20 JWC 2013 squad; Olympic Games 2016 (bronze medal)
Geduld is one of the rising stars in the national game. Although of slender build, his deceptive pace and eye for a gap makes him a very difficult opponent. The young outside back also brings flair into the game. He also represented the Junior Springboks in the Junior World Championship in France in 2013 and was a stand-out for DHL Western Province in the domestic Absa Currie Cup competition before he turned his attention to become a full-time sevens professional.
Physical: 1.81m & 101kg, DOB: 04/05/1997, Cape Town
Education: Fairview Primary, Rondebosch Boys’ High School
Other Squads: DHL Western Province Craven Week, WP Under-19. SA Schools, Junior Springboks.
Tournaments: 0 (on debut)
Debutant Zain Davids will take another step in what promises to be an exciting career to follow. The 19-year old played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side in the Dubai Invitational Sevens in December last year in his first experience of this code and showed good aptitude for the shorter version of the game as well. Last year, Davids represented the Junior Springboks at World Rugby’s Junior World Cup in England and in 2015 played SA Schools after a strong show at the Coca Cola Craven Week in Stellenbosch. A very strong ball carrier, Davids could be one of the leading face of the next generation of South African sevens stars.
Physical: 1.78m & 80kg, DOB: 10/03/1993, Welkom
Education: Koppie Alleen Primary, Riebeeckstad High, Central University of Technology, Free State
Other Squads: Team SA Commonwealth Games 2014; Griffons Craven Week Schools, CUT Varsity Cup, Junior Springboks 2013, DHL Western Province, DHL Stormers; Olympic Games 2016 (bronze medal).
Senatla is one of the rising stars in South African rugby and joined the Springboks on their 2013 Castle Lager Outgoing Series to Europe, although he did not play any tests. He has already represented his country at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow and the Junior World Championships in France in 2013. A prolific try scorer with searing pace and great footwork, Senatla was leading try-scorer in the 2015/16 World Series and was named World Rugby’s Sevens Player of the Year for the 2016 season.
Physical: 1.92 & 90kg, DOB: 17 May 1991, Johannesburg
Education: Rynfield Primary, Brandwag HS, University of Johannesburg
Fast Facts: In his Currie Cup debut in 2013, Nel scored a try for the Xerox Golden Lions within the first five minutes he came onto the field (against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs).
Other squads: Steval Pumas (Under-19), Xerox Golden Lions (Vodacom Cup, Absa Currie Cup), FNB WITS Varsity Cup
Nel scored a hat-trick in his debut match for the Springbok Sevens against American Samoa at Gold Coast two years ago and did not look back since. He was impressive in last year’s series, but a broken collarbone sustained at the HSBC Paris Sevens robbed him of the chance to make the Olympic team.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016/17 Log (after three tournaments)
1. South Africa 63 2. Fiji 51 3. England 49 4. Scotland 44 5. New Zealand 39 6. Wales 30 7. France 28 8. Australia 25 9. Argentina 25 10. Kenya 25
Springbok Sevens tournament victories (24)
Wellington – 2002, 2017 Adelaide – 2008, 2009 Dubai- 2003, 2006, 2008, 2014, 2016 Singapore – 2004 London – 2005, 2011 Cardiff – 2003 Edinburgh – 2011 Glasgow 2013 Paris – 2006 Las Vegas – 2011, 2013, 2014 Tokyo 2013 George, 2008 Port Elizabeth 2013, 2014 Cape Town 2015
Fast Springbok Sevens Facts:
•There have been 162 Springboks Sevens players since the inception of the World Series in 1999 (excluding Sevens World Cups). Zane Davids is the latest after he took the field in Wellington.
•No less than 32 BlitzBoks have gone on to represent the Springboks, with Warren Whiteley, Cornal Hendricks, Seabelo Senatla* and Jamba Ulengo the most recent.
*Senatla did not play in any tests. Team records (All time) Top Scorers
1. Cecil Afrika 1167 (47 tournaments)
2. Branco du Preez 951 (48 tournaments)
2. Fabian Juries, 925 points (44 tournaments)
4. Seabelo Senatla, 900 points (32 tournaments)
5. Mzwandile Stick, 855 points (37 tournaments)
Most tournament appearances
1. Frankie Horne 68
2. Kyle Brown 57
3. Chris Dry 55
4. Branco du Preez 48
5. Cecil Afrika 47
Most points scored in one match
Andries Fourie 31 (v Malaysia in Tokyo 2000, SA won 84-0)
Philip Burger 29 (v Mexico 2006, SA won 78-0)
Winning in Wellington for the first time since 2002 did leave smiles on the faces of the Springbok Sevens team, but the sweet feeling of victory will turn sour very quickly if the Blitzboks fail to perform at this weekend’s HSBC Sydney Sevens, the fourth instalment of the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
That is the message from Springbok Sevens captain, Philip Snyman, with the kick-off of the Australian tournament in the Allianz Stadium in Sydney only three days away.
“We have a saying in the team of always getting back to the middle,” said Snyman.
“Whether you had a good loss or a bad win, it does not make a difference, you have to start again with a fresh mind and attitude. Your start with the basics and try and do those right.”
Snyman points to the fact that South Africa failed to make the final in Sydney last year and that they are keen to improve on that.
“It will not be easy, teams will be gunning for us and we will have a target on our backs,” said the Blitzbok captain.
“We played well in Wellington, but the performances were in no means perfect. We have plenty of areas to improve on and will work hard in training to make the adjustments needed.”
The team defended very well in Wellington, conceding only four tries in six matches, but Snyman said even that can improve: “We are always striving for zero tries conceded, so we need to lift the intensity even higher.”
Sydney will be the last appearance in the current series for stalwarts Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla, who will join their Vodacom Super Rugby franchises when the team returns to South Africa on Monday.
Snyman sees the positives in this, though: “They are great players and great guys and will be missed for now. At least we have one more tournament to play with them, so we will try and make it special for all of us.”
Smith (Emirates Lions) and Senatla (DHL Stormers) will now focus on fifteens and will in future only play in selected tournaments for the Blitzboks.
Captain Snyman talks about the weekends tournament
The Springbok Sevens team arrived safely in Sydney, where Werner Kok, Branco du Preez and Ruhan Nel will be looking to add a third series title this weekend as part of a squad where all the players and management contribute.
The Blitzboks will contest the HSBC Sydney Sevens – the fourth stop of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – on Saturday and Sunday. The tournament, to be played at the Allianz Stadium, will see South Africa play England, Kenya and Japan in a tough Pool A on Saturday.
The HSBC Wellington Sevens proved to be a highlight for South Africa, as the team recorded only a second win in 15 years, having last won in 2002.
Nel, who came on as a replacement and scored twice in the Cup Final against Fiji, said his tries came about due to team work. His five-pointers, both scored late in the second half, effectively took the result away from the Fijians, who are known for their comeback ability.
“It is always pretty tense when you come on as a sub, as you want to contribute,” said Nel.
“There was four minutes left when I came on and to score two tries was pretty special. I need to thank my team mates for that though, as they were the ones putting me in space and creating the opportunity to score. It was a great feeling.”
The winger points to the importance of having good depth in the squad.
“You don’t win tournaments like this with seven players only, we have to operate as a squad and I think we did that well,” added Nel.
“Everyone contributed when asked. We have a structure and if you stick to it, chances are good that you will be successful.”
The Wellington tournament was a milestone for winger Seabelo Senatla, who broke the team’s all-time try-scoring record when he passed the 179 mark of Fabian Juries in the 26-5 win over Fiji in the final at the Westpac Stadium.
Juries (925 career points) was also overhauled in the all-time scoring stakes by Du Preez (951 points). The sweeper is now second only behind injured team mate, Cecil Afrika (1167), but said the win was all that mattered.
“It was good to be out there with the boys,” said Du Preez.
“We stuck to our structures and worked hard, so the rewards were nice. We went into the tournament with a plan, we executed it well and it worked, so it is pleasing to be successful at the end of it.”
Kok, whose 60 tackles in the Kiwi capital was the most in the team, said the victory was pleasing as it was reward for the work put in by the Blitzboks.
“We worked hard for this so there is lots of joy in our hearts, that is for sure,” said Kok, who pointed to the team’s defensive structure for his impressive tackle count.
“We have a very good defensive structure in place and we focus on that. If everyone fulfils his role in that structure, it works well, like it did on the weekend.”
Raun Nel on their victory at the Wellington Sevens
“We’re average players who put their bodies on the line for each other,” said Seabelo Senatla, these are words that have a hint of truth, writes Benedict Chanakira
Most of the Sevens players are on the fringes of their XV’s teams or not contracted at all, yet they have been exceptional.
Finalists in Cape Town, champions in Dubai and Wellington the Blitzboks have started well. Twelve points clear of Olympic champions Fiji ahead of Sydney; South Africa are currently favorites to win the World Series. Having under achieved last season with an underwhelming Series and Olympic display the Blitzboks have showed vast improvement.
The beacon of South African rugby at the moment, the Blitzboks are flying in the HSBC World Sevens Series. The 7s outfit finds itself away from the limelight and this has allowed the side to finally regain the form that made them 2010 World Series champions. The benefits of little political meddling for now.
Neil Powell paid tribute to the entire system which is encapsulated in an environment finally excelling after signs of being shaky and underachieving.
The South Africans have the best defence with just 4 tries concede in the New Zealand leg. They have made the most tackles – 394 with a tackle completion of 81%. The best in the series; averaging 21 tackles a match. Australia who sit second on the tackle charts are on 315 tackles.
The Blitzboks defence is at the heart of their ‘GAMEPLAN’ with smaller men compared to their opponents punching above their weight defensively. The defensive numbers of the squad are nothing short of phenomenal with the unsung heroes of the squad – Chris Dry (65) and Werner Kok (60) leading the tackle numbers. Kok in second a whopping 14 ahead of the USA’s Stephan Tomasin.
Despite occasionally committing more than one man on an opponent which has proven as a dangerous predicament at times, they have been exceptional in their execution. Coupled with defence, the side has shown excellent breakdown mastery and work ethic as a group. This is how the Blitzboks play, suffocate the opposition by limiting their space, ferocious competing on the ground, sharp decision making on attack and a high level of discipline as they set the bar high. Discipline is unmatched. No cards at the moment compared to their main rivals; Fiji (6 yellow cards) and England (5) who have received several cautions that have proven costly.
Goal kicking is an area South Africa will be looking to fix; amongst the top three Series contenders they have the worst goal-kicking percentage – 66% compared to Fiji (77%) and England (68%). Goal kicking proved costly in the tightly contested Cape Town final against England.
The Wellington final was a perfect demonstration of this effective game plan, with two tries coming of the defensive pressure applied on Fiji, brilliant ball retention and counter attacks that feature speedsters and finishers like Seabelo Senatla, Rosko Speckman, Ruhan Nel and Justin Geduld who was pulling the strings in place of the injured Cecil Afrika.
A winning culture has been ingrained in the squad as they boast the most impressive winning streak in the last 30 games. Talk of this being a one man team may be a touch exaggerated, Senatla is a key cog in this team, but Werner Kok’s contribution both on attack and defence must not be understated as the rest of the squad. The spark of ‘Speck-magic’ is second to none and the constant desire to improve leaves the Blitzboks in good stead.
This has not affected the side much considering they have scored the most tries, most points, made the most tackles and have garnered the most log points in the Series. The Blitzboks have set the pace not just for World 7s but for South Africa rugby. Going forward the challenge will remain being able to maintain the high standards, show a succession plan and remaining competitive.
The transition from the Kyle Brown captaincy to the Philip Snyman captaincy has been seamless. All eyes will be on the Blitzboks as they plot the future post-Seabelo Senatla despite his contributions. Competing without the flyer will be challenging but early signs prove possible. A side that comprises of ballers and grafters.
This is a system that the Springboks can look to learn from, but for now the South African Sevens team is punching well above their weight.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, will be highlighting the importance of consistency in performance and some early rhythm in the performances of the Blitzboks at the HSBC Wellington Sevens on Saturday.
South Africa face Japan, Australia and Fiji is a very demanding Pool B at the third tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Powell realises the importance of starting well when the team opens their campaign against Japan.
“Japan showed at the Olympics that they can deliver on the big day when they beat New Zealand, so we dare not underestimate them,” said Powell.
“Australia finished fourth and Fiji won the World Series last year, so it will not be an easy day out there if we are not on song from the first match.
“We need to start well against Japan to get the rhythm we need in order to go all the way. There is no use of us talking about a possible final and winning the cup if we trip up against Japan,” the coach warned.
The Blitzboks lead the overall standings after the opening two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town and Powell realises the importance of another good showing in Wellington.
“We have started well by winning in Dubai and making the final in Cape Town, but we need to get back to that form after the break we had. For that reason, we need to start well when we play Japan,” said Powell, who played in 32 tournaments for the Blitzboks and was a member of the last South African team to win this tournament, way back in 2002.
“I was a player, Paul Treu was the captain and Chester Williams was the coach. That was a long time ago,” he smiled.
The Springbok Sevens play Japan at 01h09, Australia at 04h33 and Fiji at 08h18 (all SA times).
The Springbok Sevens team for Wellington (with caps and career points) is:
Philip Snyman took the Blitzboks all the way to the final of the HSBC Wellington Sevens when he debuted as Springbok Sevens captain last year and is keen to help get the side over the line first in 2017.
Snyman shared the captaincy with Kyle Brown in the previous HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, captaining the side in four of the ten tournaments, but has since taken over the captain’s armband permanently, with Brown deciding the step down from the role.
“It is hard to believe it is that time of the year already and that the Wellington tournament is about to kick off,” Snyman said on Thursday.
“We don’t have Kyle and Cecil Afrika here this time, due to injuries, and we have lost a lot of experience because of that. But I am pretty excited about the new guys who came in and we are keen to give it another go to try and win the tournament. We trained well this week and will be ready, come Saturday and the first match against Japan.”
Snyman said that the Blitzboks adapted quickly to the 11-hour time difference between South Africa and New Zealand.
“It is hard to change around 11 hours as it is night and day, but we had some good sessions,” said Snyman.
“Our attack looked sharp on Tuesday and the defence session we had today also had a good edge to it, so I am pretty pleased with the squad’s mind-sets at the moment.”
The Blitzboks face Japan, Australia and Fiji on Saturday in a tough Pool B, but Snyman is adamant that the team will embrace those challenges.
“Yes, that is a tough pool and we face three very good sides on Saturday, but we are ready to take them on,” said Snyman.
“We have to get past Japan first, so we are putting a lot of focus on that. We need to start well and build momentum towards day two. The foundation of our quest to win here will be laid on the first day and the first match, so we must start well.”
Zain Davids and Siviwe Soyizwapi will debut in Wellington, with the former also taking the field in the Blitzbok jersey for the first time.
The Springbok Sevens team has won the Wellington tournament only once, in 2002. Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was part of that squad.
Seabelo Senatla (172 tries) is seven tries short of the all-time try-scoring record of Fabian Juries (179), while Branco du Preez (922 career points) could also move past Juries (925 points) on the all-time scoring list. Du Preez will also pass Cecil Afrika in the number of tournaments played.
Springbok Sevens Top Scorers
Cecil Afrika, 1167 points (47 tournaments)
Fabian Juries, 925 (44 tournaments)
Branco du Preez, 922 (47 tournaments)
Seabelo Senatla, 860 points (31 tournaments)
Mzwandile Stick, 855 points (37 tournaments)
Most tournament appearances
Frankie Horne, 68 tournaments
Kyle Brown, 57
Chris Dry, 54
Cecil Afrika, 47
Branco du Preez, 47
Most points scored in one match
Andries Fourie 31 (v Malaysia in Tokyo 2000, SA won 84-0)
Springbok Sevens speedster, Seabelo Senatla, knows he needs only seven tries to equal the Blitzboks all-time try scoring record, currently held by former sevens great Fabian Juries, but said it’s not what he is focusing on this weekend in Wellington.
The Blitzbok flyer has scored 172 tries in his HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series career to date, with Juries on 179 career tries.
Senatla will be playing in his last two sevens tournaments in the series in Wellington and Sydney next weekend as he will join the DHL Stormers for Vodacom Super Rugby duty in two weeks’ time.
“The record is in the back of my mind,” Senatla admitted, “but I am not stressing about it.
“We need to go out and do the work first and if the tries come, they will come. If they don’t, so be it, I am not going to chase the record and not do my job in the team first.”
Senatla, the current World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, is well aware of Juries’ abilities.
“The guys I have played with that also played with him, such as Paul Delport and Frankie Horne, told me about his great speed and try-scoring abilities. I have met the great man himself in Dubai, but we did not talk about rugby at all, strangely enough,” said Senatla.
Juries retired from international sevens rugby at the end of the 2010 season.
Senatla scored his first ever try at the Westpac Stadium on debut in 2013 and would love to break the record at the same venue.
“My job then was to score tries and that is still my job in the team this time around, so I am hoping all goes well for me,” he smiled.
“I am going out there to do my best for the team and if the tries come, it will be great.”
Meanwhile, former World Rugby Sevens Player, Werner Kok, is also achieving a special milestone in Wellington, where he will be playing in his 100th match for the side. Kok debuted in 2013 and has played in 21 tournaments to date, but missed the Wellington event last year due to injury.
“I was not even aware of the fact that I will be playing in my 100th match, but that will not change my approach,” said Kok.
“Every match, pulling that jersey over your head, is special. I can remember the first time and I will remember the 100th one as well. We are a band of brothers and playing with these guys make every match so special. It is an important weekend for us. We have not won here in more than ten years, so we have all to play for.”
Springbok Sevens player, Kyle Brown, has been ruled out of the remaining eight tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Brown sustained the injury in South Africa’s semi-final victory over New Zealand at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens tournament on Sunday.
The player will undergo surgery on Thursday, Springbok Sevens team doctor, Leigh Gordon, confirmed.
“Kyle will be operated on in Cape Town on Thursday (tomorrow) and will not be able to play for between six to nine months. This means that he will miss the remainder of the series,” Gordon said.
A number of injuries picked up in Cape Town were treated this week, but according to Gordon, none of the injuries were serious.
“Philip Snyman (hand) and Ruhan Nel (hand) underwent scans, but the results showed that they were only soft tissue injuries. They will be fit to resume training when the squad assembles again early in January,” Gordon said.
Seabelo Senatla also picked up a quadriceps muscle injury, which ruled him out of the final in which the Blitzboks were edged 19-17 by England. He will make a full recovery, Gordon said.
Carel du Preez, who strained a hamstring, and Tim Agaba, who injured his ankle during a warm-up tournament in Namibia last month, are both recovering well, as is Sandile Ngcobo (knee). Their progress will be assessed once the squad re-assembles in Stellenbosch early in January.
The next tournament in the series is in Wellington, New Zealand and will be played on 28 and 29 January.
Springbok Sevens backline player Justin Geduld said the playing in front of a vociferous home crowd at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens tournament on Saturday and Sunday will help motivate the side to play to the best of their abilities.
Geduld and his team mates attended a signing session at the V&A Waterfront on Wednesday afternoon and the good interest from a large crowd was good for the team to see, the player said.
“Knowing that the crowd is behind you helps a lot as all we have to do, is to go out there, do our best and make them proud,” said Geduld.
“The crowd will have expectations, for sure, but we can’t for kick-off. We need start all over and not expect last weekend’s results to help us this week. We need to build a new innings again.”
Springbok Sevens forward Kwagga Smith agreed with Geduld and said that the crowd support gives the team energy: “You can feel it when you run onto the field. We love spending time with our fans. They give their time to come and see us play, so we don’t mind giving back some of our own time to the fans.”
Dylan Sage, who made his Springbok Sevens debut in Cape Town last year, cannot wait for the tournament to start.
“It is fantastic to have all the people here and obviously it is great for us,” said Sage. “We are keen to keep the momentum we picked up last weekend. It is always nice and exciting to play at home, so we cannot wait.”
After only playing in four tournaments in the previous season and missing out to Olympic Games selection due to niggling injuries, the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series started off in impressive fashion for veteran Springbok Sevens playmaker, Branco du Preez.
The elusive runner in the Blitzbok set-up had a stellar opening weekend in the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens played in Dubai last weekend and is looking forward to another good showing at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens this weekend.
“I was in a bad space after those injuries, but needed to bounce back and be myself again,” Du Preez said. “I just wanted to make a positive contribution again.”
Du Preez, who along with Cecil Afrika are fourth on the list of all-time appearances for the Springbok Sevens with 46 tournaments, is the most productive Blitzbok goal kicker ever, with 271 successful kicks. He has scored 901 points, looking to become the second player after Afrika to move past 1000 career points.
“This season, I just want to live my dream again and play the best rugby I can. Playing with this team and the level the guys are playing it means that you have to be at your best if you want to contribute.”
Another big contributor last weekend, Chris Dry, is again keen to produce the goods. Dry make the most tackles in the tournament in Dubai (23) and want to contribute in any way possible.
“I am very happy just to be able to contribute to the team. They lift me to up my performance and hopefully I can do the same for them,” Dry said.
The forward, who will be playing in his 54th tournament, said it is important for the team to start at base zero again.
“We experienced a high in Dubai, but this week it was important to start at zero again and I think this training session was good in that regard,” Dry said after the team had a good session at the Green Point Track.
Ruhan Nel, who performances off the bench contributed to a number of telling scores for South Africa in Dubai, added: “It is important for the guys coming off the bench to deliver. Even if your contribution is just two minutes, you must make sure that it counts.”
Whether starting or playing off the bench, the contribution should be the same, he feels.
“I have started in the past and that is what any player want, but when you are playing off the bench, it should not change your attitude. You still need to deliver a performance that will be good for the team,” Nel said.
Branco Du Preez after the team’s first training session in Cape Town
The Springbok Sevens team will be looking for a solid start to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series when the first tournament of the 2016/17 season kicks off at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai on Friday.
The Blitzboks are top seeds in Pool B with Uganda, Scotland and the USA. Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said the team is keen to get going.
“Last year we started introducing some established fifteens guys into our structure as we looked at finding the right combinations for the Olympic Games,” said Powell.
“This time around, we arrived with a squad full of sevens regulars. In fact, four of the five most experience players ever in the Blitzbok shirt are here in Dubai, so a lack of experience will definitely not be an issue.”
Powell was excited to see what his squad can do in the desert city.
“We have some solid performers that has done well at this level. Cecil Afrika (2011), Werner Kok (2015) and Seabelo Senatla (2016) were named World Sevens Players of the Year in the past and all three are looking very sharp in training,” said Powell.
“Kyle Brown and Chris Dry have played for us more than 50 times and our new captain, Philip Snyman, is getting close to the 40 tournament mark already. All that experience and talent will count for nothing though if we do not bring our best effort to the field. We are facing Uganda, Scotland and the USA in what will be a very tough pool.”
Any opening match is always tough and Uganda will have a lot to prove, so Powell was wary of their opening match at 08h06 (South African time).
“I don’t have to point to the Scotland match (at 11h06) at all, we all know what happened in our previous clash and us losing the London Sevens after the final buzzer,” said Powell.
“We will be up for this one. The USA (15h06) remains one of the most dangerous teams on the circuit. They can really hurt you with their pace and counter-attack, so we need to be clinical and have no tolerance for mistakes, either on attack or defence.
“Most of all though, everyone in the squad are looking forward in getting the season started. We worked hard in pre-season and the squad made me proud with their willingness to dig deep and work hard.”
Powell is hoping that history can repeat itself, as the South Africans have won this tournament four times before.
“This tournament has been good to South Africa in the past and we have won here before. The support we normally get from the huge group of South African fans is no doubt worth an extra player,” said Powell
The Springbok Sevens Pool B fixtures are (SA time)”
South Africa v Uganda (08h06)
South Africa v Scotland (11h06)
South Africa v USA (15h06)
The Springbok Sevens squad for the Emirates Dubai Sevens tournament is:
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, is excited about the start of the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series as the Blitzboks start their quest for of targets they are hoping to reach this season.
The Springbok Sevens team arrived in Dubai earlier on Monday and Powell is looking forward to a strong start to the season, but said they have some long term goals set as well during the series.
“It will be important for us to start strong again,” said Powell.
“We ended the previous season well with the Olympic Games and all that came with that, but this is a new season and a new start for us again. We need out of the block really well by performing in Dubai and then in Cape Town a week later.”
Powell is also keen to get the season underway as part of a four year cycle that will culminate in Tokyo in 2020, when the next Olympic Games will take place.
“We will be bringing in a number of new faces during the season as we have to increase our depth. Some of the current players will not make it through to the next Olympics, so it will be important to identify and develop the right players with an eye to the future,” Powell said.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that we still need to be in a position to win tournaments and the overall series, but the additional goal of finding the next generation of players adds to what promises to be an exciting series for all of us.”
The team will have a flush out session on Monday before fine-tuning their preparations in the days leading up to the tournament kick-off on Friday. South Africa face Uganda, Scotland and the USA in pool play.
When a player like South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla tells you he’s still got a lot more to give to the sport of sevens, you can’t help but ask the question “How?”In the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the 23-year-old scored 66 tries. You read that correctly, 66. Senatla may still have some way to go to match Fiji’s Vilimoni Delesau, who scored 83 tries in the 1999-2000 series but for someone who has scored 113 tries over the past two seasons he has already offered a lot to fans around the globe.Senatla’s efforts over the past two series have also been duly rewarded, with him scooping the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year 2016 in association with HSBC award last month in London, an accolade he accepted in a typically humble fashion.”It’s an incredible feeling, I think I’m really humbled by getting this prize,” he said. “Ultimately though I think I am feeling the way I should be feeling because I put myself so much in the team and winning something with them has really felt much more incredible and not winning with them really makes me feel like this is their award because of the way they played and the way they put me in space. I really feel like I didn’t do the whole level of work, the work was already done. This is their award more than mine and I think that’s how I truly feel.”
For all his unbelievable show-stopping pace and outright talent, Senatla is as grounded as they come, taking time to meet and greet almost every person in the building after receiving his award. That’s a fair bit of hand shaking considering the World Rugby Awards was held in the biggest hotel in London! Yet for those that have seen him on the series, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
What is extraordinary though is his pace. Commentators over the years have waxed lyrical about ‘The bullet train’, typically after he has blitzed around the outside of a defence and is leaving players in his wake. But is he the fastest on the series?
“Carlin (Isles), he’s quick but he’s way off. There’s Carlin, and then there’s the rest of us.” he said. “There’s also Perry (Baker) who I think is a tad quicker than the rest of the pack but surely Carlin is first and maybe him second. And it’s pecking orders from the back there.”
Some would be quick to argue that Senatla’s pace is up there with both Isles and Baker. A look back at the 2015-16 series, particularly events like the HSBC Cape Town Sevens where the South African showed his blistering pace against Kenya to score from deep inside his own half. The finished product you see on the world stage, however, took years in the making.
“I’ve always been quick,” he said. “I think most of it was actually powered by my dad because we used to go to field and he’d make me run and I literally begged him to take me there so I got to love the running. I was a runner from a very, very young age. Soccer actually came before rugby, rugby just came now. I’ve played it socially my whole life but I really got into love and have so much passion for the sport only after school.”
Back in August, Senatla made the 6,000km trip over the South Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro to become part of rugby sevens’ illustrious debut at the Olympic Games. His four tries, including a brace against Australia in a crucial quarter-final match, helped the Blitzboks to a bronze medal after they beat Japan 54-14.
“I think it was quite incredible, not only just playing but playing in a nation that is not rugby orientated,” he said. “I think the dynamics of the game makes it so available for people get involved, even with people that hadn’t experienced rugby at all so seeing that and being part of the great team South Africa was pretty much incredible for us.”
An Olympic bronze medal, runner-up in the world series with South Africa, 66 tries and the World Rugby Player of the Year 2016 – who better to ask if we have seen the best of sevens yet?
“Not by a long shot. We’ve still got to grow a whole lot,” insisted Senatla. “When I think of playing when I started and where it is now it is growing incredibly and now, it being an Olympic sport, we know that other countries can bring so much money into it to keep it alive. It is going to get tougher and you are going to see it bring so much and eventually the equivalent to the 15s I think.”
Four of the most experienced Springbok Sevens players, boasting a total of 198 tournament caps between then, were included in Neil Powell’s 13-man squad that will travel to Dubai for the opening tournament of the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Kyle Brown (56 tournaments), Chris Dry (52), Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez (45 each) have all been included in the Blitzbok squad for the Emirates Airlines Dubai 7s on December 2 and 3, while another stalwart, Philip Snyman (37 tournaments) was named as captain of the side.
The SA Rugby Sevens Academy side, on the other hand, will have a number of new faces to the senior sevens set-up, as Academy Manager, Marius Schoeman, looks to grow the depth of his group with some talented youngsters.
It will be a 10th visit to The Sevens Stadium for Brown, with Dylan Sage and Siviwe Soyizwapi the only players not to have donned the Blitzboks colours at this iconic venue in the Arabian Desert before.
Soyizwapi will travel to Dubai as standby player in a revised World Rugby squad structure that allow an additional player to the squad, in case of injury. Powell could not pick the injured Tim Agaba and named Sage as a forward for this trip.
“Dylan has played as a forward for us before and did very well there in our recent warm-up tournament in Namibia, so I am very happy to name him in the front line,” Powell explained.
“He might not be the most experienced in that position, but we have a number of stalwarts in the pack. Kyle, Philip and Chris are some of the most experienced players ever in our squad, so I am pretty confident that they will guide Dylan through any potential potholes.”
The coach added that his squad shows maturity and experience and with him extending his contract for another four years, a fair amount of consistency.
“No doubt, we will be one of the most experienced sides in Dubai,” said Powell.
“This group of players have won a couple of tournaments in the past, but as we realised at the end of the previous season in our final against Scotland, you cannot relax for one second. So experience only really counts when you combine that with faith in your structures and your best effort on the day.”
The Blitzboks will face Scotland again in pool play, as well as Uganda and USA in their other matches next Friday.
The Springbok Sevens squad for Dubai is:
Chris Dry (52 tournaments, 360 points)
Philip Snyman (captain, 37, 211)
Dylan Sage (7, 40)
Kwagga Smith (24, 250)
Werner Kok (19, 210)
Kyle Brown (56, 385)
Branco du Preez (45, 874)
Rosko Specman (13, 169)
Justin Geduld (25, 558)
Cecil Afrika (45, 1123)
Ruhan Nel (11, 110)
Seabelo Senatla (29, 785)
Siviwe Soyizwapi (3, 30)
Two Junior Springboks included in young SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad
Meanwhile, SA Rugby Sevens Academy Manager, Marius Schoeman, included regular sevens campaigner, Stephan Dippenaar, in his squad for the 2016 Dubai International Invitational tournament, to be played at The Sevens in Dubai on 1 and 2 December.
Dippenaar, who played in 29 tournaments for the Blitzboks, will add valuable experience, as Schoeman named a young squad with the eye on the future. The squad includes two players who travelled to England with the Junior Springboks this year in Zain Davids and Stedman Gans.
Gans and Mfundo Ndhlovu were part of Schoeman’s team that won the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa last year, while 21-year old Ryan Oosthuizen won gold with Schoeman at the Australian Youth Olympics four years ago. Xerox Golden Lions Under-19 midfielder Wayne van der Bank adds another injection of youth.
A number of players who impressed Schoeman and coach Paul Delport at the recent Interprovincial Sevens played in Nelspruit were called up, including Diederik Oberholzer (Leopards), Joel Booysen (Western Province), Robbie Louw (Boland), Impi Visser (Blue Bulls) and Selvyn Davids (Griffons), who was named Player of the Tournament.
“We need to assist in introducing promising young players to the sevens systems as the Academy is all about finding the next guy who can play for the Blitzboks,” said Schoeman.
“The likes of Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla and Werner Kok all started here and we believe a couple of players in this squad for Dubai that can also follow that pathway.”
Kyle Brown has stepped down as Springbok Sevens captain and will instead settle into a more supportive role to the younger leaders in the squad, with Philip Snyman appointed as the Blitzboks’ new captain.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell praised Brown for the role he played over the last five seasons and emphasised that the Blitzbok veteran still has an important role to play in the team.
Powell also confirmed that Snyman, who captained the Blitzboks earlier this year in four tournaments, will take over as captain of the team.
“We already had a strong leadership group in the squad and Philip is a natural leader of men, so it was an easy choice. He will do well, I have no doubt,” Powell said.
Brown, who has played in 56 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments to date, said: “The time has come where it feels right for me to step aside as captain of the team.
“It is has been an immense privilege that I have had for the better part of five years and we are in a great position to bring some new, fresh ideas into the role.
“I discussed the move with the Coach shortly after our return from the Olympics and we made the decision in the last week.”
Brown said there is a lot of thanks to give: “I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the opportunity to lead such an amazing group of people. Having said that, I must thank the leadership group that surrounded me, making the position most enjoyable. Thank you to everyone that placed their trust in me to fulfil the captaincy.”
He will not neglect any leadership duties, Brown confirmed.
“This season I look forward to moving into a supportive role with the aim of helping the young leaders find their rhythm and, most importantly, concentrating on adding as much value to the team on and off the field,” said Brown.
Powell said he accepted and respected Brown’s decision.
“Kyle always put the team before himself and this is another example of that,” said Powell.
“We are starting to bring new faces into the squad, so it will be great to still have a leader like Kyle around to show them what the team culture is, what we stand for as a group and a team.
“Kyle still has a lot to offer as a player and I am convinced we will still see some inspiring performances from him this season. He was an amazing captain and we salute his contribution.”
The Springbok Sevens team for Dubai, the opening tournament of the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, will be named on Friday.
The South African sevens team outplayed fellow World Series contestants, Kenya, by 31-10 to win the Safland Sevens tournament played at the Dome Sports Arena in Swakopmund on Sunday.
The Springbok Sevens team came through the tournament undefeated and only conceded two tries in six matches played, both coming from the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series regulars in the final against the Blitzboks.
The tournament started the season on a positive note for the Blitzboks, who will now fine-tune their preparations for the opening leg of the World Series, to be played in Dubai on December 2 and 3.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was pleased with the effort from his squad and the improvement they have shown over the last two days.
“Nothing beat real matches, so this was important for us to get game time under the belt. It was very good playing Kenya twice in one day, as they are the type of opposition we will face during the series,” Powell said.
“We had a couple of boxes ticked, no doubt, and also were caught short on others. It was a good exercise for us and I think we have learned a lot about where we are now at this stage of the season.”
The fact that there were no serious injuries despite the short turnaround between matches, was another pleasing aspect for Powell.
“We had one of two niggles and will check them out this week, but generally the guys would have benefitted from this trip.”
The Blitzboks delivered a strong show in the final of the tournament.
Cecil Afrika struck early in the first half and when Dylan Sage broke through, the gap opened up to 14 points. Kenya did pull a try back before the break though, but South Africa held a deserved 14-5 lead.
A brilliant run by Siviwe Soyizwapi just after the restart broke open the match for South Africa, who also scored tries via Werner Kok and Stephan Dippenaar, with Kenya only managing one more try to their effort.
The semifinal match against Zambia was not the best performance of the day by South Africa, but they still managed a solid 29-0 win. They make a couple of errors with their passing and throwing and that prevented them from moving into top gear. Zambia also took the game to the Blitzboks well and looked set to score, but for a great cover tackle from Ruhan Nel.
The team then settled into some routine, with Justin Geduld scoring a brace and a conversion to give his team a 12-0 lead at the break.
The second half saw a much better effort, with Werner Kok racing in from 80 meters before tries from Siviwe Soyizwapi and Stephan Dippenaar closed the door on any chance Zambia had.
South Africa qualified for the semifinals with a 51-0 win over the Namibia Academy side. The young hosts could not settle their nerves or defence, resulting in some scintillating tries from the visitors.
Dylan Sage opened and closed the scoring for the South Africans in the first half, with Werner Kok and Siviwe Soyizwapi (2) also getting on the scoresheet with first half tries.
Two more tries by Sage in the second saw him recording a hat-trick, with Ruhan Nel scoring a brace and Stephan Dippenaar adding the other five pointer.
Earlier in the day, the team edged Kenya 22-0 in their final pool match of the day.
The team from East Africa held more than their own in the opening five minutes, but once the Blitzboks found their rhythm on attack, some gaps opened up to be exploited. Ruhan Nel scored the only try of the half, giving South Africa a 5-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, Nel added a second before tries by Branco du Preez and Dylan Sage confirmed the 22-0 result.
The Blitzboks will play in a one day tournament in Cape Town next weekend, before Powell will name his final squad for the opening leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai in the following week.
World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Werner Kok is keen to get back into action for the Springbok Sevens team.
Kok is particularely keen to get back into the swing of things after having missed out on nine of the ten World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in the 2015/16 season,
“It is great to be back in the system again. I missed it dearly. It is just so amazing to be part of this squad,” Kok said.
He had to work hard to get back to fitness following knee surgery after the Dubai tournament last year, spending many extra hours on the training field in order to make the team that played in the Olympic Games in Brazil, but it was all worth it after Team South Africa’s podium finish in Rio de Janeiro in August.
The flyer then had a productive season for Western Province in the Currie Cup, joining them at the back-end of the tournament and scoring four tries for the Cape Town side.
One of those was a great try in the semifinal of the competition against the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, but it was not enough as the team missed out on a final spot due to a late score by the home side.
“The fifteens were important for me from a confidence point of view. It has a more physical approach and I needed that. With sevens, it is more about fitness and speed, two elements of the game I enjoy, so to change back is easy for me.”
The South African squad is packed with experience and although they have played together many times, Kok stresses the importance of getting real match situations into the legs and minds.
“It is crucial to play a couple of serious matches to get the combinations right and to enter the opening two legs of the season with good momentum. We need to find each other and connect as a team again in a competitive environment, and tournaments like these are great to get that going. We are looking to this tournament to achieve exactly that.”
The Springbok Sevens playmaker Rosko Specman is determined to help his team to a convincing performance in this weekend’s HSBC Paris Sevens tournament and is looking forward to play with the Blitzboks again.
Specman was in fine form in previous tournaments, but was rested for the previous two tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and missed the Hong Kong and Singapore events.
Coach Neil Powell included the playmaker for Paris, the second last tournament in the 2015/16 series.
“I am very happy to be here and I would like to thank the coach and management for giving me this opportunity to travel to Paris to play in this tournament,” Specman said.
“To be back in the squad and playing is wonderful. It is not nice sitting at home and watch the boys play, but I understand the bigger scheme of things. The coach needed to give everybody an opportunity to see if they can add value with the Olympics in mind.”
Specman used the time not playing to sharpen his skills set.
“So while it was sad to say behind that also gave me the chance to work on my fitness and some core basics at home. The guys back in Stellenbosch not playing in a particular tournament is also fantastic in their support and we all work together to be ready when called upon. They are always positive and supportive and that makes the hard work easier,” Specman said.
“The only scary part is sitting back home and seeing how well the guys are playing without you. But I am not going to try and force the issue this week. It is about the team first and then you can try and express yourself.”
Specman is keen to return to the sparkling form that he showed in Wellington.
“The team must do well all around. If they go forward, I can play but I also need to do my bit to make sure they are on the front foot. The great thing about the Blitzboks is the way we support each other. That teamwork has been a highlight for me,” said Specman, who will play in his 12th tournament for South Africa.
The Blitzboks suffered an injury scare on Tuesday, with Justin Geduld pulling up with a hamstring niggle. Coach Neil Powell decided not to risk further injury to one of his stars of the season and pulled Geduld out of the tournament. He will be replaced by Stephan Dippenaar, who will join the team on Wednesday.
Geduld, who scored 238 points so far this season (fifth on the overall list for the season), will return home to receive the treated needed to make sure he remains in contention for the Olympic Games.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell is confident that the four changes made to his side for the upcoming HSBC Paris tournament will help the team achieve the goals set for this tournament in the French capital and the remainder of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series. Francois Hougaard, Rosko Specman, Philip Snyman and Dylan Sage are the new faces in the squad from the last tournament in Singapore, with Snyman also taking the captaincy role over from Kyle Brown.
The Blitzboks depart South Africa for Paris later today and Powell feels his team will give good account of themselves, providing they stick to the processes and structures in place.
“We are looking to possibly rotate the team after Paris for the London event, but for now we only look at next week. I am happy with the team we selected for the Paris leg,” Powell said.
“We have a strong pool in Paris playing England, Australia and Brazil and that is good for us, as this is something we will probably encounter in Rio in a couple of months. We will try to keep our focus on our structures and processes and not the results as such. If we stick to what we do well, the results will come.”
Snyman is not expecting the extra responsibility of captain the side will pose any problems.
“Taking the role of captaincy for Kyle is a nice challenge. We work well together, so I am looking forward to the added responsibility. We have to focus on Paris for now. Game one against England is the big focus. We know what we do best and will back our structures. That will bring results, I believe.”
Hougaard, who returns to the squad following a stint with Worcester Warriors, said he is keen to get back into the sevens mode.
“I have a great time in Worcester, but it is great to be back with the sevens family. We worked hard this week to prepare for Paris and that was great. We are not looking too far ahead, as it can result in us missing the immediate goals. We take it week for week and prepared well with the Paris Sevens in mind. It is not as easy to get back in sevens as it looks like, it takes time, but I worked hard this week.”
Springbok Sevens speedster, Seabelo Senatla, who has scored 54 tries in the series, said the team’s focus is solely on what awaits them in France.
“The Olympics are getting closer, but we are not focussing on that yet. All our energy and focus is on the next two tournaments. The management did well in keeping the guys fresh at the start of every tournament cycle. The guys are keen and hungry for the last two tournaments.”
The Springbok Sevens team (with number of tournament caps) is:
As Damian de Allende approaches full fitness there is still uncertainty surrounding his exact role at the Stormers for the rest of this Super Rugby season, writes Lloyd Burnard – Sport24
With just two Sevens World Series tournaments left before the Rio Olympics in August, De Allende is running out of time to prove his fitness and worth to Blitzboks coach Neil Powell.
The Paris leg of the Sevens World Series takes place on May 14 and 15 while the season-ending London leg takes place on May 21 and 22.
Should De Allende want to be a part of the 12-man squad that travels to Brazil, then he will have to feature in at least one, and probably both, of those tournaments.
That means that he could miss the Stormers’ trip to Singapore to take on the Sunwolves on May 14 and, more significantly, the clash against the Bulls at Loftus on May 21.
Then, of course, should De Allende make the Olympic squad he will be expected to be a part of training camps and preparation for the Games.
With the Super Rugby group stages only ending two weeks before the Olympics begin, De Allende’s inclusion in the squad for Rio would certainly have an impact on his participation for the Stormers during the business end of the season.
But coach Robbie Fleck is seemingly relaxed in the midst of all of the uncertainty.
“Those discussions were made early in the year prior to his injury … obviously with his injury that does change things,” he said.
“It’s partly my responsibility to get him back .. not only for the Stormers but for South Africa and the Springboks.
“If he gets called up to the Sevens and Damian is keen to go to the Olympics then it’s also my responsibility to get him ready for that.
“He’s got a huge opportunity to play for the Springboks and the Olympic side … right now his focus is with us.
“He’s got to get as fit as possible and play his best rugby for us and should he get a call-up, then great. We’ll deal with it like we’ve dealt with every other situation that’s come across our desk this year.”
Having made just two Super Rugby appearances off the bench this year due to a severe ankle injury, De Allende is nearing a full recovery and is a possibility to start against the Reds in Cape Town this Saturday.
“If he keeps working as hard as he is during the weeks then he’ll get his start,” said Fleck.
“He’s an important player for us and his management is crucial … but he’s looking good.
“Both times he’s come off the bench he’s had a bit of an impact so when we do select him hopefully he takes it both hands and shows what his quality is.”
The Springbok Sevens team moved back into the second position on the log of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series on Sunday when they finished third in the HSBC Vancouver Sevens tournament.
The South Africans outplayed Argentina 28-0 in the bronze final after suffering a heart-breaking 26-21 loss against Fiji in the semifinal, having earlier beat New Zealand 12-7 in the Cup quarterfinal Sunday morning.
Kenya, who lost to South Africa in pool play, then shocked Fiji, beating the log leaders by 30-7 in the Cup Final to win their first ever tournament in the series.
The Blitzboks win over New Zealand secured them second spot (139 points) as it moved them past the Kiwi’s (135 points). Fiji is still leading with 147 points and with only tournaments in Paris and London left, must be favourites to win the series outright.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was happy with his team’s effort over the weekend and the way they finished against Argentina.
“They really came for us in that first half and we managed to keep them out. I wanted to give the guys mostly playing off the bench some proper game time and they responded well to that challenge. The extra two points we collected by winning that final is also very important and helped us back into second overall.”
Powell’s team missed out on the final again, but that is not disheartening the coach.
“The margins in sevens are so small and when we play Fiji or New Zealand, it is always just one try that proves the difference. So that Fiji tackle on the corner flag on Stephen Dippenaar preventing him from scoring what probably would have been the match-winner shows how tight the margins are. I cannot blame the players for lack of effort. Whenever they take the field, they really play for that jersey and each other. They left nothing out there,” said Powell.
“I believe firmly we are on the right track to be a very successful team.”
South Africa’s defense again dominated the statistics of the tournament. They made 105 tackles, more than any other team and now also leads the most tackles stats for the season. Amazingly, the Blitzboks only missed six tackles all weekend.
Tim Agaba was the leading Blitzbok, with 17 tackles made. Chris Dry however, remains the best tackler in the competition with 109 tackles made in seven tournaments.
Seabelo Senatla, who moved past 50 tries for the season, again featured amongst the try scorers and his six five-pointers were only equalled by Zach Test of the USA. Senatla also made the most line breaks (7), sharing that with Masivesi Dakuwaqa (Fiji) and James Johnstone (Scotland). Senatla also extended his try scoring tally for the series to 54.
Justin Geduld was the highest points’ scorer for South Africa though with 31. His overall tally this season is 238, fifth overall, with Senatla on 270 third overall.
The World Series log after eight tournaments completed:
1. Fiji 147
2. South Africa 139
3. New Zealand 135
4. Australia 115
5. USA 95
6. Argentina 92
7. Kenya 85
8. England 75
9. Samoa 62
•The draw for the HSBC Paris Sevens, to be played on 13-16 May has been completed. South Africa, as top seed in pool C, will face England on Day One and Brazil and Australia on Day Two.
Springbok Sevens regular Philip Snyman will become the ninth South African to reach the special milestone of 35 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments when the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens kicks off on Friday noon (SA time).
The Springbok Sevens team marks 35 tournaments as a special milestone and since the inception of the World Series in 1999, only Fabian Juries, Marius Schoeman, Mzwandile Stick, Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Chris Dry, Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez have reached this landmark.
The versatile Snyman, who has scored 206 points (35 tries, 15 conversions) in the Blitzbok jersey since his debut for the team in Dubai in 2008, is playing in his fifth Hong Kong tournament and said the 35 tournament marker is a significant one for him.
“Every tournament is special and to share this milestone with such an amazing bunch of guys and with this team makes it even more so,” said Snyman, who captained the team earlier this year in the Wellington and Sydney tournaments.
“I am not only proud to be playing in my 35th tournament, but to be able to play it with this brotherhood of men makes me even prouder. I will cherish this for the rest of my career and enjoy every moment of it.
“To play 35 tournaments is a special milestone in this team and I am proud to join that group who done it in the past. Hopefully we can make this one a special one for the record books as well.”
South Africa is yet to win the Cup at this iconic venue, but this did not add any pressure on the team, according to Snyman.
“Looking at Hong Kong, special as is, it is just another tournament in the bigger series,” said Snyman.
“We will focus on England in our first match on Friday and not look past that. Once that is done, we will move on to the next match. This is the seventh tournament of the season and we know that we need to establish the foundation first and build on that.”
The Springbok Sevens are in Pool B and will play England at 14h50 (SA time) on Friday, 8 April, and Russia (07h54) and Scotland (11h54) on Saturday, 9 April.
OPINION: Brendan Venter, the former Springbok centre and current technical director of Saracens, has called for an investigation. And it is not cricket in Mumbai or tennis in St Petersburg that Venter is concerned about, but rugby in Wellington, the home of the New Zealand Rugby Union.
The Boks are outraged by both the refereeing of their pool match and their final against New Zealand at the Wellington sevens and while it may go against the grain to feel empathy with a South African rugby supporter, they have a point.
The officiating of both those matches made any neutral observer wonder what the hell was going on.
The penalty count in the final was 9-1 in favour of New Zealand.
Let’s start with the final. The penalty count in that match was 9-1 in favour of New Zealand and they were not the dominant side. Every marginal call went their way. They got away with forward passes and knock-ons, while South Africa were penalised, once quite crucially, for knock-ons that seemed to have propelled the ball back out of the hand.
New Zealand were allowed to do whatever they liked at the breakdown.
They came in from ludicrously offside positions to clean out, notably in an important try scored by Rieko Ioane.
Matt O’Brien’s refereeing of the final has come under fire in South Africa.
In contrast South Africa were penalised at one breakdown even when the men in black were not competing for the ball.
South Africa raised their arms to appeal for high tackles that weren’t given and then heard the whistle blown against them once more. They raised their arms to appeal against Akira Ioane diving in off his feet and wrestling a ball clear. South Africa almost stopped playing, so obvious was the penalty.
The whole charade was an embarrassment and it made you wonder two things. Does the sevens circuit covertly endorse home town refereeing in order to boost ticket sales. And was the appointment of the referee for Sunday’s final as neutral as those of us who just love sport have a right to expect.
The referee in question was Matt O’Brien. He had already refereed New Zealand’s quarter final against Kenya when he let a New Zealand pass go that was 10 metres forward. That is not an exaggeration.
Despite such a blunder, O’Brien was appointed to the final. O’Brien referees under the flag of Australia, but he is a New Zealander. He is also the son of Paddy O’Brien, who is World Rugby’s man in charge of sevens officials.
When stuff like this goes on, it is almost impossible to avoid the charge of nepotism. There is no way that Paddy O’Brien should be in a position of power when his son is a likely candidate. There is no way that Matt O’Brien should officiate New Zealand matches when he is clearly a Kiwi. Both then become hostages to misfortune.
This country has a poor history when it comes to home town bias, most infamously in the disgraceful umpiring of the cricket series against the West Indies. It was the series when Michael Holding kicked over the stumps, Colin Croft barged an umpire and Lawrence Rowe said, “You’re nothing but a pack of cheats.”
It did not help when one of the umpires said in an after dinner speech, “I didn’t know the main export from the West Indies was the Coconut Rough.”
One of the great sadnesses of that series was that New Zealand’s batsmendid not choose to take the moral high ground and walk when they knew that they had edged the ball. By standing their ground they were endorsing cheating.
Now although I am not suggesting that Matt O’Brien deliberately favoured New Zealand on Sunday, I am suggesting he was wearing Kiwi goggles, influenced by his Southland upbringing and playing time at Otago University, and by the noise of the crowd.
I suspect he will review the match coverage and cringe with embarrassment. I feel sorry for O’Brien.
He is an honest official put in an invidious position and the occasion got the better of him.
It is the same embarrassment that cricket umpire Billy Bowden should feel for refusing to give Corey Anderson out in the one-day international against Pakistan.
Bowden could apparently hear a thin inside edge in the Pakistani innings, but not when Anderson got a snick that could be heard in the stands.
It may have been a good weekend for Kiwi sport in terms of results, but it was a bad weekend in terms of integrity. It was disappointing none of New Zealand’s sevens leaders could have sympathised with South Africa, who were also done over by Stuart Adamson in the group stages.
The Springbok Sevens team on Monday called up the uncapped Tim Agaba for the Sydney leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series as replacement for Justin Geduld, who is returning home with a shoulder injury.
Geduld landed awkwardly during a tackle against New Zealand in their pool match in Wellington on Saturday morning (SA time). He did not play at all on Sunday, leaving the already injury-hit Springbok Sevens team to complete the rest of the tournament with just 11 players.
Juan de Jongh also left the field early in the Wellington Cup final against New Zealand due to leg cramps, but he has been given the green light to participate in the Sydney Sevens this weekend.
Agaba signed a full-time contract with the national squad only a few months ago after playing a starring role for the Eastern Province Kings during the 2015 Currie Cup, and he is considered as a very bright prospect.
Current Sevens World Player of the Year, Werner Kok, as well as the experienced quartet of Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez, are all missing from the travelling squad because of injury, while Ryno Benjamin returned home on the eve of the Wellington event because of a calf injury.
Five of the Springbok Sevens players who participated in the Wellington tournament have played in less than five World Series tournaments, which makes their outstanding showing in Wellington more remarkable and shows the quality of the depth within the squad. Sandile Ngcobo made his debut this past weekend, while Carel du Preez (4), Francois Hougaard (3), Dylan Sage (2) and De Jongh (4) are all relatively inexperienced in World Series tournaments.
Neil Powell, Springbok Sevens coach, said Agaba now has the opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level: “He played very well for the EP Kings in the Currie Cup and also starred for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side in their three tournaments recently in Dubai and South America respectively.
“Tim only joined our setup recently and I know he is still inexperienced. But the only way to test whether a player is capable of playing at this level is by giving him a chance.”
According to Powell, Agaba will slot in amongst the forwards with the versatile Dylan Sage moving to the backs. Commenting on the loss of the in-form Geduld, Powell said the team showed in New Zealand that they have sufficient cover.
“Losing Justin is a blow, not only because of his current form, but also because he is one of the leaders in our backline and he does good work off-field as well,” said Powell.
“However, with Rosko Specman, Cheslin Kolbe and Francois Hougaard we have three players that are able to cover the sweeper / flyhalf roles.”
Meanwhile, the Springbok Sevens arrived in the Australian capital on Monday following their agonising loss to New Zealand in the thrilling Wellington Sevens Cup final.
The Blitzboks were in sublime form on Sunday and defeated Australia and Fiji in the quarter-final and semi-final stages respectively. New Zealand managed to snatch the title away from the South Africans with a last-minute try.
South Africa are the top seeds in Pool B in Sydney, where they will face Kenya, Scotland and Russia on day one at the Allianz Stadium. They currently top of the World Series standings with 54 points after three tournaments.
The Springbok Sevens squad for the HSBC Sydney Sevens tournament this weekend:
Tim Agaba from East London caught the attention of the rugby public in 2013 when he played number eight in the Varsity Cup for tIthe Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Madibaz) in Port Elizabeth. Since then he played for the Eastern Province Kings and the Sharks and is now part of the SA Academy Sevens Team that toured Argentina and Chile the past month.
He was born in Uganda and moved to the Eastern Cape in 1991 and completed his high school career at Stirling High in East London.
“It was always my dream to play Sevens for South Africa after my stint in the Sharks Sevens but when I joined the EP Kings from 2013 till 2015 I was committed to the Currie Cup and put that dream on hold. When Marius Schoeman called my up at the end of last year I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and signed a two year contract with the SA Academy team. Seeing that the Olympics is coming up I’ll try my best to be eligible for the SA team.
“The two tournaments in Argentina and Chile showed me that you cant just walk into the team, you’ll have to work hard and before we left for South America we were put through our paces by Marius and Paul Delport, the two coaches. The fact that they both played on the Sevens circuit and know what to expect from your opposition helped me to make the transition from fifteens to sevens quickly. I wouldnt say that it was a walk in the park but you had to adjust quickly. The Academy team is mostly a young team but with two tournaments under our belts we can only improve.
“Travelling to Argentina was a difficult experience because I never travelled overseas for rugby only for holidays. We just came back from the festive season and it was tough because we were not a well-drilled team and we were still trying to find each other in the team setup. For first timers we’ve done well, losing to the hosts in the final, the same Argentinian side that played the Blitzbokke in the final in the Cape Town Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC Sevens Circuit,” said Tim.
“The following weekend we played in Chile and I wouldn’t say we were over-confident but we knew what to expect from the teams and as a team we were gelling better as when we left South Africa for the first time.
The tournament was well-organized, lots of media attention, press conferences and lots of spectators. That was a side of playing rugby that we knew nothing or very little of. It showed me the importance of publicity and how rugby crazy the South Americans are, just like the South Africans. The biggest problem was the language because they speak Portuguese or Spanish and very little English but I must say they at least tried to get quotes and info of the team from management and in interviews with the players.
“If you ask me what I’ve learned from these two tournaments I would say that you learn from each other and from your opponents every time you run onto the field. You dont have the privilege of fourteen other guys to come and rectify your fault, the game is only seven minutes a half and one mistake can cost you the game. I realized that wearing that Bok jersey anywhere in the world, you are an ambassador for your country, without the big pay check and what you do on and off the field counts very heavily on you as the ambassador,” he chuckled.
He also admits that he is an adrenaline junkie. “When I am not playing rugby, I play touchies, swim or run, as long as I am active. I can’t sit still and do nothing and that is why I am and athletic freak. The only times that I sit still is when I’m reading or have breakfast, lunch or supper. I like reading autobiographies and the last book that I’ve read was The Alchemist but would love to read Madiba’s Long Walk to Freedom.
I also like to watch documentaries on tv, so I am actually a very boring guy,” he laughed.
“My message to young aspiring sevens players is that it is tough, your mindset must be in the right place, it is very disciplined, the intensity in the game is very high, it is very individualistic and you must know how to manage the space on the field. If you can do all this, then Sevens is for you. Just remember that you are an advert for the game, your community and your country, so don’t stuff it up by doing something stupid on or off the field like picking fights or drinking.
Remember to be disciplined in all aspects of your life if you want to make it in the game,” said Tim.
According to Tim rugby is played in Uganda from where his father hails, but not on the same scale as here. When his career is finished he would like to go back to Uganda to help grow the game and share his expertise with those that also have a passion for the game. But know he wants to establish himself in the Sevens setup and wear that jersey with pride.
****This was written by Avril Christina who was the first female rugby reporter in South Africa in 1982, she was also the first female writer that toured with seven males to New Zealand in 1996. She was Media24 Sports Writer of the Year in 2008. Avril also coach Western Province Defence Team, Western Province Women’s Team and Maties Women’s Team
The Springbok Sevens moved to the top of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings despite suffering a heart-breaking 24-21 loss to arch rivals New Zealand in the final of the Wellington Sevens on Sunday morning (SA time).
New Zealand scored three tries in the last two minutes to clinch another epic final battle between the two rugby superpowers at the Westpac Stadium. South Africa had the impressive Rosko Specman in the sin bin for much of that time, while they were also called back from scoring after Seabelo Senatla’ pass to Cheslin Kolbe was called forward by the referee.
The South Africans collected 19 valuable points and they now have a two point lead on top of the league standings after collecting 54 points in the three rounds so far. Round four of the World Series will be staged in Sydney next weekend.
Captain Phillip Snyman and Specman scored a try each while Akira Ioane replied for New Zealand to make the halftime score 14-7 in South Africa’s favour. Seabelo Senatla scored another converted try for the Blitzboks after Francois Hougaard had latched onto a failed offload by Sonny Bill Williams.
However, with Specman yellow carded for a professional foul, replacement Rieko Ioane (2) and Joe Webber crossed the South African line to snatch a dramatic comeback win for the Kiwis.
Afterwards, Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, praised his team’s effort: “I’m obviously disappointed with the result, but I am very happy with the performance of the squad. They gave everything out there today and I am proud of their efforts,” said Powell.
The final was a rematch of Saturday’s thrilling pool clash which New Zealand won after the final whistle thanks to a trademark SBW offload, which allowed the Kiwis to score the winning try.
After their quarterfinal win over Australia, the South Africans then delivered a brilliant team effort in their semi-final clash against the prolific Fijians, scoring five tries in a memorable 31-0 victory.
Powell later described the outing against Fiji as a special performance. “To beat Fiji in that manner and to keep them scoreless is unbelievable. The boys deserves credit for that special performance,” added Powell.
The Springbok coach was also very pleased with the depth of his squad, especially after Justin Geduld did not play at all on Sunday while Juan de Jong also hobbled off in the final with a calf injury.
“It was important for us to see how we would perform without regulars such as Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok. We also lost Ryno Benjamin on the eve of the tournament, so it was very pleasing to see the guys playing so well in Wellington,” said Powell.
Excellent defence and clinical finishing frustrated the Fijians throughout their semi-final and the islanders’ ill-discipline cost them two yellow cards.
Senatla and Kolbe each scored a try, and after the interval, Kwagga Smith and another Kolbe try sealed a deserving win for the South Africans.
Earlier in the day the Springbok Sevens defeated Australia 26-14 in their quarterfinal to book a place in the last four. Two tries by in-form speedster Senatla and one apiece by Chris Dry and Snyman clinched a comfortable win for South Africa.
Fiji defeated England 24-12 in the playoff for third place after they were 14-5 up at halftime.
The abbreviated World Series standings after round three in Wellington:
The Bok Women’s Sevens will kick off their 2016 season this week with a series of matches against their counterparts from Brazil in Stellenbosch as they build towards trying to reclaim their place on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series this year.
Springbok Women’s Sevens coach Renfred Dazel and his team returned to their training base in Stellenbosch two weeks ago after the festive season break, and have been working hard to improve their conditioning before the season begins.
The team will face the Brazil Women’s Sevens team in matches on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as part of the visitors’ preparations for the Olympic Games in August this year.
“This is a very important season for us, with our main goal being to reclaim our place on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series,” said Dazel.
“Unfortunately we did not make the cut during the World Series Qualifier last year and we also received the disappointing news that we would not participate in the Olympic Games. But this is a new season, with new opportunities and challenges and we are looking forward to making our presence felt against quality teams.
“Brazil will present a tough challenge this week as they have been playing on the Women’s World Series and they will want to kick-start their season on a high note, especially with the thought of hosing the Olympic Games in the back of their minds. These matches, however, are equally important to us, and they will also give us an indication of where we are in terms of the quality of our game. ”
There are a few new faces in the Springbok Women’s Sevens squad this season with Chané Stadler, who made her Bok Women’s Sevens debut in the Emirates Airlines Dubai Invitational in December, and Megan Comley from Tuks having joined the squad. Lamla Momoti and Nomsa Mokwai, who also featured in the Dubai tournament, are also currently training with the squad.
Veteran Bok Women’s Sevens player Nosiphiwo Goda has left the squad to pursue a different career. However, she will continue to play rugby for the Border Women’s provincial team.
“It is disappointing to lose a player of Nosiphiwo’s class and experience, but we wish her luck for the next phase of her life,” said Dazel.
“On a positive note, however, I am pleased to welcome the new players to the squad. They all showed great potential late last season and I have no doubt that they will develop into solid players this season.”
The inclusion of uncapped Sandile Ngcobo is one of two changes to the Springbok Sevens squad announced on Wednesday for the next two legs of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, in Wellington and Sydney, where the experienced Philip Snyman will captain the side for the first time.
SA Rugby Union president, Mr Oregan Hoskins, named the 12-man squad on Wednesday afternoon at the Steinhoff Springbok Sevens sponsorship launch in Stellenbosch. Steinhoff signed a three-year agreement to sponsor the Springbok Sevens.
The team won their third home title in a row last December at the inaugural HSBC Cape Town Sevens. They will, however, travel to New Zealand and Australia without the key injured duo of skipper Kyle Brown and playmaker Cecil Afrika.
Brown has been rested due to a niggling shoulder injury, while Afrika is still recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the season-opening Dubai tournament last December.
In a rotational change, Carel du Preez comes in for Dylan Sage who made his Springbok Sevens debut in Cape Town, while Snyman will take over the captaincy in the absence of Brown.
Ngcobo is the latest in a long list of players to graduate from the successful SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad to the Springbok Sevens ranks. He has won numerous international tournaments with the Academy side and he played for ORC Griquas in last year’s Currie Cup competition.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said his team will focus on consistency in Wellington and Sydney.
“In the past we struggled to regain our best form after playing in Dubai and in our home tournament, so our mental focus will be a key aspect for us on this tour,” explained Powell.
“We are building towards the Olympics Games in Rio, so it is important that we perform well in the World Series. These two tournaments will offer us another opportunity to rotate some players and introduce a new one. Stix (Sandile) has been knocking on the door for a while now and I know he is excited and very keen to play on the World Series circuit.”
The squad will complete their preparations with a series of training matches on Friday morning against Maties at the Paul Roos Markötter Stadium in Stellenbosch before departing for Wellington on Saturday.
South Africa are the top seeds in Pool A in Wellington, where they will feature in group matches against Scotland, Russia and tournament hosts New Zealand.
The Wellington Sevens takes place at the Westpac Stadium on 30 and 31 January, and will be followed by the Sydney event a week later on 6 and 7 February at the Allianz Stadium.
The Springbok Sevens squad for New Zealand and Australia (all SA Rugby contracted unless specified):
The Springbok Sevens have recharged their batteries following their impressive success at the inaugural HSBC Cape Town Sevens and a well-deserved break over the festive season, and are looking forward to the next two HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Wellington and Sydney.
Wellington hosts the third leg of the World Series on 30 and 31 January and the inaugural Sydney tournament takes place a week later, on 6 and 7 February.
SA Rugby will announce the 12-man squad for Wellington and Sydney at a Steinhoff sponsorship function in Stellenbosch next Wednesday afternoon. Steinhoff is the new team sponsor of the Springbok Sevens.
Powell and his team have been in training camp since 4 January but the recovery of some players as well as illness amongst others, unfortunately prevented the full squad from training together from the beginning of the restart camp.
Werner Kok is a long term injury casualty and has undergone knee surgery, while Cecil Afrika was nursing a persistent hamstring niggle. Although Branco du Preez has recovered from his shoulder rehabilitation, he was laid low with a virus infection.
After the high of winning the inaugural HSBC Cape Town Sevens last December, the team enjoyed a break and regrouped again last week in Stellenbosch.
Powell is confident that his charges are now fully energised again after a well-deserved break and ready for the Australasian leg of the World Series.
“It only took one gruelling session to the guys back into the swing of things again and I am satisfied with their levels of intensity and mental preparation,” said Powell.
“Last year, in the build up to Dubai and Cape Town, we spent a lot of time on the basics of our playing structure because we had a lot more fifteens players with us. This time around, we could go straight into preparation of our game plan, which I think is a big plus.”
The three non-contracted players currently training with the squad are the DHL Western Province duo of Cheslin Kolbe and Juan de Jongh, and Ryno Benjamin of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. All three were instrumental in the team winning their third consecutive home title at the Cape Town Stadium last December, where the tournament was successfully hosted for the first time.
Powell expects the trio to play even better Down Under: “I am very happy that we have them available for the first four tournaments of the World Series. They were impressive in Dubai and Cape Town and I know they will improve even more because of the amount of time spent with the rest of the squad.”
The Springbok Sevens have a tough pool draw for Wellington, where they will face hosts, New Zealand, Scotland and Russia.
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