‘Players deserve place in Bok 7s’

2014-12-12 00:00

IT came as little surprise when Blitsbokke coach Neil Powell named an unchanged squad in an effort to defend the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens ­tournament that starts tomorrow.

The third stop of the HSBC World Sevens series sees the top teams converge on Port Elizabeth to compete in South Africa’s home tournament.

The SA Sevens side go into the showpiece on a high having won the Dubai Sevens last weekend and could become the first Blitsbokke team to defend their title at home if they win the tournament.

Considering last weekend’s emphatic victory, where the South Africans went through the tournament unbeaten, Powell had no difficulty trusting the same group of players this weekend.

“The players all deserve to be in the squad after that performance in Dubai. Every World Series tournament is an extremely tough and demanding event and there is no room for complacency. It is wonderful for the squad to play on home soil in front of our own supporters. The players have really enjoyed their stay in the city and the support we have received so far is fantastic. We hope to make them proud again this weekend,” said Powell.

The stop in the Windy City could be historic for Blitsbokke stalwart Cecil Afrika. The playmaker needs to score just 12 points to surpass SA’s all-time point scorer Fabian Juries (925 points). Meanwhile, fellow dread-locked star Branco du Preez will play in his 35th tournament.

The feat puts Du Preez on the SA Sevens honours board, next to the likes of Juries, Griquas flank ­Marius Schoeman, Mzwandile Stick and Frankie Horne.

A number of youngsters impressed last weekend and subsequently earned the opportunity to win back-to-back tournaments in the series, which is no mean feat.

The likes of Werner Kok, who was named Dubai Sevens player of the tournament, and Kwagga Smith will be ones to look out for. Smith’s hat-trick in their 28-0 semi-final win over New Zealand highlighted just how talented the Blitsbokke squad are.

Newcomers Ruhan Nel and Warrick Gelant also impressed last weekend and another good tournament could see them factor into Powell’s plan for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The top-four ranked sides at the end of the series will qualify for the upcoming Olympics.

The Blitsbokke face Wales, the United States and Kenya in their Pool A clashes tomorrow.

Blitsbokke Pool A Fixtures

12.42 pm v USA

3.58 pm v Kenya

7.58 pm v Wales

Springbok Sevens Team

1. Ruhan Nel (2 World Sevens Series Caps), 2. Philip Snyman (26), 3. Frankie Horne (61), 4. Kwagga Smith (8), 5. Werner Kok (11), 6. Kyle Brown (41, captain), 7. Branco du Preez (34), 8. Rayno Benjamin (26), 9. Warrick Gelant (1), 10. Cecil Afrika (32), 11. Seabelo Senatla (12), 12. Cheslin Kolbe (7).

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