Blitzbokke change two for Wellington Sevens

31 January 2014

The Springbok Sevens team, aiming for a third successive HSBC Sevens World Series victory, will go into the next tournament in Wellington, New Zealand on 7 and 8 February with two changes to the squad that won the Las Vegas Sevens.

Seabelo Senatla and Rosko Specman were both ruled out of the Wellington tournament after picking up ankle injuries in the USA and have been replaced by Kwagga Smith and Jamba Ulengo.

Justin Geduld (knee) and Sampie Mastriet (ankle) are carrying minor injuries from the Las Vegas tournament but are expected to be ready for action in the New Zealand capital.

Senatla, despite not playing in the Cup final against New Zealand, was the top try scorer in Las Vegas with six tries in his first World Series outing of the season after he had missed the previous three rounds because of a lower back injury.

Good form and consistency

Speaking from Las Vegas on Thursday where the team spent a few extra days before flying out to New Zealand, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said his squad is eager to maintain the good form and consistency, which has taken them to the top of the World Series standings.

He also said he was fortunate to be able to call on strong replacements for the injured Senatla and Specman. “Jamba was perhaps unlucky to lose out on selection for Las Vegas after a good tournament in Port Elizabeth, while Kwagga has a very good work rate and should be able to slot in easily amongst the other more experienced forwards,” the coach said.

Powell said he would move the impressive and versatile youngster Werner Kok out to the wing while adding Junior Springbok flanker Smith to the forwards. Kok has impressed since making his Bok Sevens debut only four tournaments ago and it was his power run and try that clinched the Cup against New Zealand in Las Vegas.

Goal

Powell added: “Our main goal this year is to establish a good level of consistency by reaching the Cup semi-final of each tournament. The players have responded well so far to the challenge and I am very pleased that we are currently on track.”

So far this World Series season, South Africa have finished fourth at the Gold Coast, second in Dubai and were crowned champions in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas.

The Springbok Sevens’ Pool A opponents in Wellington will be Wales, Portugal and England.

South Africa at the Wellington Sevens

South Africa has won the Wellington Sevens once, way back in 2002, when they beat Samoa 17-14 in the final. The Blitzbokke finished as runners-up in 2006, when Fiji won the final 27-22.

Wellington has, however, not been a successful hunting ground for the Sevens Boks in recent times. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 they made the quarterfinals of the Cup, but were then beaten and relegated to the Plate competition.

As coach Neil Powell said, the goal is to reach the Cup semi-finals of every tournament. If they do that, South Africa will have made another important step forward.

SA SEVENS SQUAD

Kyle Brown (captain), Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Frankie Horne, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Cecil Afrika, Sampie Mastriet, Jamba Ulengo

SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby