Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has made four changes to the Blitzbok squad that won the shortened 2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Canada in September for the two tournaments in Dubai, where the new season is set to kick off next weekend.
Blitzboks Shilton van Wyk
Photo: SA Rugby
The experienced duo of Branco du Preez and Impi Visser both return to the squad, while Powell also picked two uncapped players in S?hilton van Wyk (outside back) and Tiaan Pretorius (forward).
Du Preez is currently the Blitzboks’ most capped player with 75 tournaments behind his name, which include 380 matches and a total of 1 355 points. Visser has played in 12 World Series tournaments to date.
Five players who were in action in Canada, were not available due to various injuries – Angelo Davids, Sako Makata, Darren Adonis, Dewald Human and James Murphy, while Justin Geduld, Lubabalo Dobela, Qamani Kota, Mfundo Ndhlovu and Latica Nela were not considered as they are still busy with injury rehabilitation after missing the North American trip.
Following the group’s preparations at their base in Stellenbosch, Powell said he has picked his best available squad for the visit to the UAE, adding that the Blitzboks will be looking to build on their success in Canada.
“Although we have a number of players unavailable due to injury, we will be looking to take some momentum from our success in Canada when we travel to Dubai, which is why there are only a handful of changes from the team that won in Canada,” said Powell.
“Branco and Impi are two experienced players, very capable of playing at this level and both were involved in the Olympic Games.
“We also have two new caps in Shilton and Tiaan, who have been part of our structures for a couple of years and come in as outside back and forward respectively. They now get an opportunity to show what they are capable of at this level.
“Shilton and Tiaan’s inclusion is also part of our long-term plan to build more squad depth, give players exposure and game time so they can build experience, and also to assist us in managing the squad at the start of what is going to be a very busy season.”
South Africa face Ireland, Japan and Great Britain on the first day in their pool matches.
The first tournament in Dubai – which is the start of the 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – will be held behind closed doors on 26-27 November, followed by a second event on 3-4 December with fans in attendance at The Sevens Stadium.
Supporters can look forward to a very busy and exciting year in 2022, with the World Series followed by the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on 29-31 July, and concluding with Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town on 9-11 September.
Following the two events in Dubai, the World Series will move on to Europe as Spain plays host for the first time with combined men’s and women’s events in Malaga and Seville on 21-23 and 28-30 January 2022 respectively.
The Blitzboks are set to travel to Dubai on Sunday.