After using 28 players during the 2017/2018 campaign‚ Blitzbok coach Neil Powell has built impressive depth to cover for several key injuries as the new seasons comes sharply into focus.
The 2018/19 HSBC World Sevens Series kicks-off in Dubai next weekend‚ a venue where the Blitzboks have enjoyed success in recent years including winning last year’s season opener.
The uncapped Impi Visser is an SA Sevens Academy graduate who will make his Blitzbok debut in the Emirate next weekend while old heads such as Kyle Brown and Branco du Preez are back in the squad after injuries cut last season short for them.
The exciting Muller du Plessis is also included in a squad missing veteran Cecil Afrika through injuries and others such as Kwagga Smith‚ Dylan Sage‚ Seabelo Senatla and Ruhan Nel‚ who are all focusing on fifteens.
Despite those and other absentee stalwarts‚ the fact the Visser is the only new face shows how well the Academy conveyor belt is working for SA Sevens rugby.
Visser will earn his Blitzbok debut in a team laden with experienced campaigners‚ including Brown (65 tournaments) and Du Preez (61) tournaments. Both are fit again after missing out on the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July‚ where South Africa claimed bronze in San Francisco.
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 and Heino Bezuidenhout were also 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 Tuks player‚ who was part of their 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. 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)
Craig Ray- TimesLIVE