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JOHANNESBURG — The World Sevens Series starts this weekend, with all the attention on South Africa’s Blitzboks to defend their title which they won in dramatic fashion in the last tournament of the previous season. Coach Neil Powell has his usual blend of youth and experience in the Blitzbok side which will defend the tournament title won in Dubai last year. The experience comes in the form of skipper Philip Snyman, ably assisted by former captain Kyle Brown as well as Branco du Preez. The side also includes the prodigious talents of Werner Kok, Rosko Specman and Justin Geduld. Powell has ensured that, despite crippling injuries in the past, the Blitzboks remain a competitive team by giving newcomers good opportunities, and Impi Visser is the uncapped player in the Dubai squad. The side is without the country’s top points scorer in Sevens rugby Cecil Afrika, for so long the talisman of the team. However, the Blitzboks have shown they are more than capable of missing a player of his calibre, and while Afrika will be missed, there’s no gaping hole in the squad. Also making the trip to Dubai in the Academy side to compete in the Invitational tournament is Chris Dry, a seasoned campaigner of 64 tournaments, who missed much of last season with a serious knee injury. He’s assisting Academy coach and former Blitzbok Marius Schoeman with the team that has served so competently as a feeder for the national squad. Neil Powell has a group of players brimming with talent and oozing confidence as the reigning World Sevens Series champions. Buckle up – it’s going to be an exciting ride. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
Impi Visser will make his Springbok Sevens debut in Dubai this weekend after he was included in the travelling squad by Blitzbok coach Neil Powell, who also recalled Kyle Brown, Branco du Preez and Muller du Plessis for the opening tournament of the 2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The World Series opener will be played at The Sevens Stadium at the outskirts of Dubai on 30 November and 1 December and will see the Blitzboks defend the Emirates Trophy they won last year, as well as the overall series title. The South Africans have been grouped with Argentina, Samoa and Zimbabwe in Pool A.
Visser will earn his Blitzbok debut in a team laden with experienced campaigners, including Brown (65 tournaments) and Du Preez (61) tournaments, both of whom are fit again after missing out on the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July, where South Africa claimed bronze.
Du Plessis also missed out on the San Francisco trip and returns to the squad after he last played for the Blitzboks in Singapore in April.
Philip Snyman will captain the side for his third season in charge, while regulars Zain Davids, Ryan Oosthuizen, Werner Kok, Justin Geduld, Dewald Human and Siviwe Soyizwapi will make the trip to Dubai.
Selvyn Davids will travel with the side as the official replacement player. Stedman Gans, Cecil Afrika and Heino Bezuidenhout were not considered due to injury.
“I am pleased with the final selection, although it was not an easy one for me,” said Powell.
“A number of the guys outside of the squad were unlucky not to make the side, but it is good to have that depth. We have a solid core of experienced players and I am expecting them to show that in Dubai, a really tough tournament as you have no idea what to expect from your opponents.
“Those outside the squad will play for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side in Dubai. They will not only get valuable game time, but also an opportunity to stake their claim against international opponents – just look at Impi as an example.”
Visser made his SA Rugby Sevens Academy debut in Dubai in 2016 and played there again last year before suffering a serious ankle injury when he toured South America with the Academy squad last January.
The former FNB Tuks player, who was part of their FNB Varsity Cup winning side in 2017, moved down to Stellenbosch this year, where he completed his degree in Mechanical Engineering.
The 23-year-old Visser started his career at scrumhalf, where he played Craven Week for Mpumalanga, before moving to the midfield for the University of Pretoria. He will play in the forwards for the Blitzboks.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to play for the Blitzboks,” said Visser.
“It is a massive honour and privilege and I don’t think I have stopped smiling since I was told I’ll be making my debut in Dubai. It was a long and hard road for me, recovering from my injury and finishing my studies as well, but all is now worth the effort.”
The Springbok Sevens squad for the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens are:
1. Impi Visser (uncapped)
2. Philip Snyman (captain – 54 tournaments; 248 matches, 346 points, 63 tries, 16 conversions)
3. Ryan Oosthuizen (10 tournaments; 45 matches, 55 points, 11 tries)
4. Zain Davids (13 tournaments; 60 matches, 45 points, 9 tries)
5. Werner Kok (37 tournaments; 184 matches, 420 points, 84 tries)
6. Kyle Brown (65 tournaments; 327 matches, 420 points, 84 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (61 tournaments; 305 matches, 1162 points, 82 tries)
8. Rosko Specman (26 tournaments; 138 matches, 343 points, 63 tries, 14 conversions)
9. Justin Geduld (36 tournaments; 186 matches, 833 points, 86 tries)
10. Dewald Human (4 tournaments; 18 matches, 66 points, 8 tries, 13 conversions)
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (18 tournaments; 89 matches, 280 points, 56 tries)
12. Muller du Plessis (4 tournaments; 20 matches, 55 points, 11 tries)
13. Selvyn Davids* (5 tournaments; 24 matches, 97 points, 13 tries, 16 conversions)
* Replacement Player
- Kyle Brown (66th) will move one tournament closer to the all-time Blitzboks mark of 68 World Series tournaments achieved by Frankie Horne.
- Branco du Preez (1162) is second on the Blitzboks all-time points’ scoring list. Cecil Afrika (1430) heads that list.
- Snyman, Kok, Brown, Du Preez, Specman and Geduld was part of the victorious 2017 squad in Dubai.
The Springboks Sevens schedule for Friday 30 November (SA times):
08h52 vs Zimbabwe
12h36 vs Samoa
17h53 vs Argentina