Sevens Boks primed for Las Vegas title defence

16 January 2014

Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has named an experienced team to defend their HSBC Sevens World Series tournament title at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas from 24 to 26 January.

Injury permitting, the same team will also travel to New Zealand a week later for the Wellington Sevens tournament.

Victory at home

The South African team is coming off a victory in the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens and currently trails Series leaders New Zealand by only two points.

Last season, the Springbok Sevens team claimed three titles, all of them with wins over New Zealand, but their most emphatic victory came in Las Vegas where they thrashed the Kiwis 40-21 to lift the Cup. Starting with the victory in the US, South Africa went through a purple patch, winning win three out of four events.

Team selection

Coach Powell has included 10 players from his contracted group in his line-up and has also handed a national debut to Steval Pumas’ flyer Rosko Specman. Powell also included a fit-again Seabelo Senatla, who will make a first appearance in the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series.

Vodacom Bulls ‘ winger Sampie Mastriet, who has played in all three IRB tournaments thus far this season, has again being included in the squad, while Stephan Dippenaar is also back, having returned to full fitness after missing the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in December.

In all, Powell made three changes to the squad that won the Port Elizabeth event, with Specman, Dippenaar and Senatla replacing Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith and Steven Hunt respectively.

‘It wasn’t an easy decision’

“It wasn’t an easy decision to finalise the squad as everyone really worked hard to make the final cut,” Powell said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Players such as Steven, Kwagga and Jamba Ulengo can count themselves unlucky not to be in the team, whilst Paul Delport has also just returned to full fitness after a serious knee injury.

“Rosko was with the team in Port Elizabeth and just missed out on selection there, but he kept working hard and deserves his opportunity,” Powell said of the Nelspruit-based player.

“He excelled for the Saru Sevens Academy team and was named Player of the Tournament at the Punta del Este 7s earlier this month, so I am confident that he can contribute significantly in our efforts to retain our title in Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas Sevens successes

South Africa will be aiming for a third USA Sevens title in four years. They’re the defending champions and also took the honours in the 2011 tournament with a 24-14 defeat of Fiji in the Cup final. Before thinking of another title, however, they will first have to get by Kenya, Wales and Canada in Pool A.

Springbok Sevens team

Kyle Brown (captain), Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Frankie Horne, Rosko Specman, Werner Kok, Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Cecil Afrika, Sampie Mastriet, Seabelo Senatla

SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby