Sevens coach Neil Powell. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
- The 2021/2022 Sevens rugby calendar begins in Dubai this weekend.
- Coach Neil Powell expects a strong start from his team ahead of back-to-back tournaments.
- If the Blitzboks enjoy a clean sweep of wins in the pool stages and then win their quarter-final, they’d match their best ever World Series winning streak of 16 matches, set between 2008-09.
A long Sevens rugby season begins in earnest in Dubai on Friday and Blitzboks coach Neil Powell knows a strong start will be important for the team.
South Africa are the defending champions following their win in a truncated 2021 World Series which was held in Canada in September.
The Blitzboks will open their Pool C campaign on Friday with a game against Ireland (07:32), followed by games against Japan (11:24) and Great Britain (14:40).
“We had a good week here, although we’ve done most of our preparation work in Stellenbosch,” said Powell.
“So it was a case of fine-tuning to make sure everyone are on the same page and that the guys are ready to get going.”
“It’s a long season and we are starting off with a tough game against Ireland, who is a very structured team, so it will be important to start well,” cautioned Powell.
“We’ve done proper analysis on them to make sure we know what we up against. If we don’t do well in terms of our effort and (the) implementation of our roles on the field, then we could find ourselves in trouble.”
The Springbok Sevens squad for the two World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Dubai:
1. Christie Grobbelaar – 3 tournaments; 12 matches, 30 points (6 tries)
2. Ryan Oosthuizen – 23 tournaments, 118 matches; 125 points (25 tries)
3. Impi Visser – 12 tournaments, 64 matches; 65 points (13 tries)
4. Zain Davids – 24 tournaments, 120 matches; 95 points (19 tries)
5. Tiaan Pretorius – uncapped
6. JC Pretorius – 12 tournaments, 65 matches; 140 points (28 tries)
7. Branco du Preez – 75 tournaments, 380 matches; 1355 points (97 tries, 432 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids – 21 tournaments, 108 matches: 426 points (45 tries, 99 conversions, 1 penalty goal)
9. Shaun Williams -2 tournaments, 12 matches, 26 points (4 tries, 3 conversions)
10. Ronald Brown – 2 tournaments, 12 matches; 91 points (9 tries, 23 conversions)
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi – captain; 32 tournaments, 169 matches; 520 points (104 tries)
12. Muller du Plessis – 15 tournaments, 75 matches; 275 points (55 tries)13. Shilton van Wyk – uncapped
Experienced duo Branco du Preez and Impi Visser are back in the Sevens mix, while Powell also picked two uncapped players in outside back Shilton van Wyk and forward Tiaan Pretorius, with Powell affirming that the duo were raring to go if called upon.
“They’ve been training with us for the last 18 months, so they know what is expected of them,” said Powell.
“Shilton is a very elusive runner and I think if he gets ball in hand, he will surprise a few people with his speed and his evasive skills. He showed some of that in the recent tournament against Kenya and Uganda and if he gets his opportunity I think he will do well.
“Tiaan is a hard worker and has good aerial skills, so I’m looking forward to giving the two of them their first caps and to see how they go.”
Captain Siviwe Soyizwapi says the team will take their positive result from Canada as an omen for the season, saying:
The excitement level is high and we are really looking forward to it. Dubai is a great spot and we have done really well here over the years with good success. We can definitely take confidence from our recent results in Canada and it was really good for some younger guys to come into the squad and get experience at that level.
If the Blitzboks enjoy a clean sweep of wins in the pool stages and then win their quarter-final, they’d match their best ever World Series winning streak of 16 matches, set between 2008-09.
The Blitzboks’ opening day fixtures (SA kick-off times):
- 07:32 – Blitzboks v Ireland
- 11:24 – Blitzboks v Japan
- 14:40 – Blitzboks v Great Britain