The Springbok Sevens squad for the next two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai and Port Elizabeth shows three changes from the 12-man group that finished fourth at the Gold Coast in October.
The squad has been bolstered by the return to full fitness by livewire scrumhalf Branco du Preez and the inclusion of Junior Springbok attacking star Cheslin Kolbe of DHL Western Province. Werner Kok is the third change to the squad, while Mark Richards, and Steven Hunt missed out on selection.
Cornal Hendricks, top try-scorer for South Africa last season when they finished second on the World Series log, has joined the Toyota Cheetahs for their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign next season and is unavailable, while Seabelo Senatla and veteran Paul Delport are still recovering from injury and were not considered.
Kolbe was included in the travelling party after SARU GM for High Performance, Rassie Erasmus, successfully negotiated his temporary release from WP.
Erasmus said on Friday SARU was grateful to the provincial unions for releasing their players to the Springbok Sevens.
Apart from Kolbe, three players from the Vodacom Bulls, and one each of the EP Kings, MTN Golden Lions and Steval Pumas were released by their provinces after the Absa Currie Cup campaign to join the wider training group in Stellenbosch a fortnight ago.
These players are: Nardus van der Walt, Shaun Adendorf, Sampie Mastriet (all Vodacom Blue Bulls), Kwagga Smith (MTN Golden Lions), Siviwe Soyizwapi (EP Kings) and Rosco Speckman (Steval Pumas). All will be in action next week in Dubai, either for the Springbok Sevens or the SA Sevens Academy.
Erasmus was full of praised for the willingness of the provinces to assist: “Although they have just completed a tough Absa Currie Cup campaign, they did not hesitate to answer our call for assistance. I want to thank the Vodacom Bulls, EP Kings, Steval Pumas and DHL Western Province for releasing their players to us,” said Erasmus.
Commenting on the squad, Neil Powell, the Springbok Sevens coach, said he was pleased with the final selection and added the players are eager to improve on their showing at the Gold Coast.
Powell explained: “Our preparations went well and the guys are really looking forward to Dubai and then to come home and play in front of our home supporters in Port Elizabeth. We are looking for consistency in performance firstly during this series, but will be very keen to win the next two tournaments as we have good track records and support at both venues.”
The squad leaves on Sunday afternoon from the Cape Town International Airport to play in the Emirates Dubai Sevens next weekend, 29-30 November. They then travel to Port Elizabeth for the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in PE on 7-8 December to play in their home tournament.
In Dubai, South Africa will line up against Argentina, Russia and defending tournament champions Samoa in Pool D on match day one.