'Tis the season of the Sevens

South Africa will face Ireland, Japan and Great Britain on the opening day of the tournament.

Blitzboks have made it back-to-back wins in the Olympic Sevens as they progressed to the quarter-final. Picture: @TeamSA2020/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - A busy season awaits the defending HSBC World Sevens Series champions, as the Springbok Sevens kick off their title defence at the Dubai Sevens this weekend. South Africa will face Ireland, Japan and Great Britain on the opening day of the tournament.

The Blitzboks won the shortened 2021 World Series held in Canada in September and with the Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup coming up next year, it’s more important than ever for the team to gel and create some depth.

There are a few familiar players missing from the squad due to injury, South Africa have included two uncapped players for this tournament in Tiaan Pretorius (forward) and Shilton van Wyk (outside back), and coach Neil Powell is looking forward to the two newcomers getting their first taste of World Series action.

“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.”

Four other players who featured in Canada were also ruled out, but the South Africans will be boosted by the presence of experienced duo of Branco du Preez and Impi Visser.

Powell is understandably keen to see his charges gaining momentum early on.

“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 opening day fixtures (SA kick-off times):
07h32: Blitzboks v Ireland

11h24: Blitzboks v Japan

14h40: Blitzboks v Great Britain

The Blitzbok squad for the first two HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Dubai:

  1. Christie Grobbelaar – 3 tournaments

  2. Ryan Oosthuizen – 23 tournaments

  3. Impi Visser – 13 tournaments

  4. Zain Davids – 24 tournaments

  5. Tiaan Pretorius – uncapped

  6. JC Pretorius – 12 tournaments

  7. Branco du Preez – 75 tournaments

  8. Selvyn Davids – 21 tournaments

  9. Shaun Williams – 2 tournaments

  10. Ronald Brown – 2 tournaments

  11. Siviwe Soyizwapi – captain; 32 tournaments

  12. Muller du Plessis – 15 tournaments

  13. Shilton van Wyk – uncapped