Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi will lead an experienced Blitzboks squad featuring a number of returning veterans at the Dubai Sevens tournament next weekend as the new World Rugby Sevens Series season kicks off.
The winger has been named captain for the new season by Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell, and will take the field along several returning, decorated sevens exponents.
Former World Player of the Year, Seabelo Senatla, World Player of the Year nominee Rosko Specman and current SA Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Dylan Sage, are back alongside Ruhan Nel, who will don national colours for the first time in a year after he toured with the Springboks to Europe in November 2018.
Senatla, Sage and Nel return to the World Series after a year’s absence.
Second-year Blitzboks in JC Pretorius and Kurt-Lee Arendse have played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in last year’s tournament.
Ryan Oosthuizen, Chris Dry, Zain Davids, Selvyn Davids and Justin Geduld will again form the core of the team, with the latter nearing the 1000 points mark in the World Series.
Powell said selection was tough.
“I think we are better prepared compared to the same time last year,” he said.
“We had warm-up tournaments in Germany, Kenya and England and everyone had a good run in at least one of those. Selection was tough, as most of the regulars are available for the opening tournament.”
Players such as Werner Kok, who has just returned from Toulouse where he was a medical joker, and Hacjivah Dayimani have been named in the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side that will also play in Dubai to get some valuable game time.
SA Rugby Sevens Academy graduate Christi Grobbelaar will travel as 13th player and if called upon, will make his debut.
“We had a poor start in Dubai last year and it took us a while to recover from that,” said Powell.
“We can’t promise anything this time around, but I am pretty sure the effort will be there and if that is the case, we will be very competitive.”
The squad won the tournament in Germany and were losing finalists in Kenya and England, with Powell adding: “Those results were good for us, because it removed any complacency we might have had. The margins between the teams in the World Series are so small that one bad game will punish you. We will be very aware of that.”
Soyizwapi took over the captaincy for the last four tournaments last season after Philip Snyman got injured and says he’s comfortable in his new role.
“We have a number of experienced players in the squad, which makes my job much easier. The leadership group in the team is also settled and that helps a lot,” said Soyizwapi. ”
Blitzboks squad: Chris Dry, Ryan Oosthuizen, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, JC Pretorius, Shakes Soyizwapi, Selvyn Davids, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Christi Grobbelaar.