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By Sports Reporter


Cecil Afrika on Blitzboks return: ‘My country called and I had to answer’

“This is a wonderful chance for us to be part of something special," said the veteran Sevens playmaker.

He did not know what the question was going to be when he saw an incoming call from Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell, but Cecil Africa instinctively knew the answer to it.

The question was whether the most prolific points’ scorer in a Blitzbok jersey was willing to join the Springbok Sevens team one more time. The answer was yes, but Afrika revealed on Tuesday he first told Powell that he will phone him back in five minutes.

“I was with my fiancé, Adrielle Armoed, in Port Elizabeth, busy with our wedding arrangements (they are getting married in December) and we were on our way to the wedding venue when coach Neil phoned,” said Afrika, recalling the phone call that changed his plans for this Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.

“I had no idea that he was going to ask me to join, although I have sent him messages in the past, perhaps more jokingly than anything else, like before the Commonwealth Games, telling him I am available. I asked if I can phone him back, as I just needed to chat to Adrielle, but I knew the answer. My country called and I had to answer.”

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The fact that he had other engagements, like doing touchline commentary and some other World Rugby commitments at the 2022 event, did not even feature in his mind. As soon as Adrielle agreed that it was an opportunity Afrika had to seize, the return call to Powell was about logistics and getting him to Stellenbosch.

Fast forward eight days and Afrika is now – again – kitted in the green and gold and discussing running lines, angles, rush defence and restarts with Powell, assistant coach, Renfred Dazel, and other stalwarts such as Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi and Ryan Oosthuizen. The integration back into the team was seamless, as if he never left.

‘Back where I felt at home’

“The muscle memory came back straight away,” Afrika explained with a broad smile on Tuesday.

“I am very clear on what coach Neil and coach Renfred want out of the game; I have played for them for a long time. It did take a little longer to process the whole plan, as I was away from the team for a while, but it is all coming back to me.

“It was a bit emotional, taking all in and knowing that I am back where I always felt at home, but that aside, we have a job to do this weekend.

“I was always one to ask a lot of questions at training and that has not changed, so I got all my answers early. It was always great to see how the rest of the squad embraced me and welcomed me back into the team. That was a great feeling.”

Afrika played at two HSBC Cape Town Sevens events and is well aware of the huge support the home team get in the Mother City: “That is massive energy coming to you and the swell of support lifts the team. We must use that to our advantage and send off coach Neil on a high note, so that he can start his new job (at the Sharks) on a high as well,” said Afrika.

The opportunity to play in a Rugby World Cup is one thing, to do so in your own country is even more special and Afrika is adamant that this should not be an opportunity wasted.

“We must embrace this honour and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “This is a wonderful chance for us to be part of something special. I told the guys when I  joined that I would give everything I have to assist the team. Whatever is expected of me, I will do.”

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Blitzboks Cape Town Neil Powell SA Sevens