JOHANNESBURG — There’s a saying that an opportunity sometimes arises when you least expect it, but when they do make sure you grab it with both hands and run. This is what Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has created by taking his strongest team to the Commonwealth Games currently on the go in Australia. The opportunity is for the youngsters in the sevens setup, as the Hong Kong leg of the circuit is being played at the same time. From the new coach, former sevens star Marius Schoeman, to the 13 players in the squad with 5 of them uncapped and a combined 134 games between the rest, it’s raw talent as its best. The Blitzboks currently have an eight point lead in the Series over Fiji and this will be a serious test of the depth of talent in the setup. – Stuart Lowman
From SA Rugby
Few are better placed to explain the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens experience than former Blitzboks captain and stand-in Springbok Sevens coach, Marius Schoeman.
A decision by Blitzboks head coach Neil Powell to take the biggest chunk of his regular squad to the Commonwealth Games rather than letting them play in the seventh tournament of the 2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series opened the door for Schoeman to make his Springbok Sevens coaching debut on the same field he played on for the Blitzboks.
Back in 2001, Schoeman started a career that would span a decade, and in this time he scored 103 career tries, 16 of which were in the same Hong Kong Stadium where he will take to the field as the coach on Friday. South Africa will meet South Korea in their first Pool C match.
Schoeman, who is the current SA Rugby Sevens Academy coach, is enjoying his expanded role for this tournament, which is close to his heart for obvious reasons.
“This is a special place for me,” said Schoeman. “Many players started here and went on to do great things in rugby, and without sounding arrogant, I believe some of the players in this youthful squad will do the same.”
Schoeman’s 42 tournaments alone is more than the combined 32 in his squad, but to the coach this points to a massive opportunity for the five novices that will take to the field for the first time.
“I have coached some of these players from a young age. The likes of Heino Bezuidenhout, Stedman Gans and Mfundo Ndhlovu were part of the squad we took to the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa in 2015, and we won gold then,” said the coach.
“Others like Selvyn Davids, Mosolwa Mafuma, Ryan Oosthuizen and Dewald Human have played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad in Germany, Dubai, South America and France, and I know their strengths well.”
Schoeman is aware of the slender lead the Blitzboks hold at the top of the 2017/18 World Series, and a full strength Fiji side for one will be looking to win a fourth title in four years and to cut into their eight-point lead.
“The team knows they need to trust the systems and the processes in place,” said Schoeman.
“It has brought results to both the Blitzboks and the Academy side. This is a wonderful opportunity for this group of players to announce themselves on the world stage if they apply that.”
The Springbok Sevens team (with HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stats):
- Heino Bezuidenhout (uncapped)
- Ryan Oosthuizen (6 tournaments, 23 matches, 20 points, 5 tries)
- Zain Davids (9 tournaments, 36 matches, 20 points, 5 tries)
- Marco Labuschagne (2 tournaments, 2 matches, 0 points)
- Mosolwa Mafuma (uncapped)
- James Murphy (uncapped)
- Selvyn Davids (3 tournaments, 15 matches, 21 points, 3 tries)
- Dewald Human (captain; 2 tournaments, 7 points, 1 try)
- Rhyno Smith (uncapped)
- Stedman Gans (8 tournaments, 30 matches, 20 points, 4 tries)
- Muller du Plessis (2 tournaments, 8 matches, 5 points)
- Mfundo Ndhlovu (uncapped)
- Sandile Ngcobo* (6 tournaments, 20 matches, 4 tries)
*Official replacement player
- Heino Bezuidenhout, Mosolwa Mafuma, James Murphy, Rhyno Smith and Mfundo Ndhlovu will all make their Springbok Sevens and HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debuts.
- Dewald Human, who takes over the captaincy from Philip Snyman for this tournament, will lead his country for the first time.
The Springbok Sevens schedule in Pool C (SA times):
Friday 6 April
13h10 v South Korea
Saturday 07 April
06h22 v Scotland
10h26 v England