SA Rugby confirms withdrawal of Steinhoff as Springbok Sevens sponsor
SA Rugby confirmed on Monday that it had received notification from Steinhoff International that the company was withdrawing from all sponsorship activities. It means the Springbok Men’s and Women’s, and SA Rugby Sevens Academy teams will no longer carry the company’s logo.
“We have been kept informed by Steinhoff of their thinking and they have confirmed their intention to withdraw from their sponsorship of Sevens rugby with immediate effect,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“It has been completed amicably and by agreement. We’d like to thank Steinhoff for their commitment and support over the past two seasons.”
Roux said that the process had already begun to identify an alternative partner.
“We believe all our national teams have characteristics, values and a unique South African DNA that makes them highly attractive to commercial partners,” said Roux.
“The Springbok Sevens team has added to that with consistently high standards of performance as the current holders of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title and we believe they will be an attractive proposition for potential partners.”
During 2018 , the Springbok Sevens team will defend their Commonwealth Games title on Australia’s Gold Coast between 13 and 15 April and then challenge for the Sevens Rugby World Cup title in San Francisco between 20 and 22 July.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens team will also contest both events. The Blitzboks are next in action in the HSBC World Sevens Series in Sydney, Australia, on 26-28 January.
Schoeman applauds winning effort of SA Rugby Sevens Academy in Punta del Este
The SA Rugby Sevens Academy showed great determination and character in Uruguay on Sunday to claim the Punta del Este tournament on the Sudamericarugby Sevens series, beating Ireland, France and Chile en route to the title, despite only having nine players available for the final.
"It was a great start to the year for us and the guys really had to dig deep for this one," SA Rugby Sevens Academy coach, Marius Schoeman said after they defeated Chile 21-5 in the final.
"We only had nine fit players left for the final match and given the fact that Chile beat us on Day One, it was a remarkable effort by the squad. They really stepped up today. Our wins over Ireland in the quarters (31-7) and France (24-14) was due to excellent play by the guys. We did not let ourselves down in the final either."
Schoeman feels the tournament ticked a number of boxes.
"It is a big year for Springbok Sevens in general, given the defence of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title, the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby Sevens World Cup, so the Academy's role of developing the next generation and to add depth will be pretty crucial.
"The guys were out of their comfort zones, playing far away from home on a different continent and still managed to deliver. We had two players who completed school only a couple of weeks ago (Angelo Davids and Muller du Plessis) and another trying sevens for the first time (Rhyno Smith) and this was the ideal learning curve."
The team now travel to Vina del Mar in Chile, where the second of the Sudamericarugby Sevens tournaments will take place this weekend. The tournaments are part of the South American qualification process for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, to be played in San Francisco in July.
South Africa will face Brazil, Ireland and Paraguay in pool A of the Chile tournament.
Coaching changes for Blitzboks, Springbok Women’s Sevens
SA Rugby on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Renfred Dazel to the Springbok Sevens coaching staff and promoted Paul Delport into the position of Head Coach for the Springbok Women's Sevens team.
Former Blitzbok stalwart Dazel, who coached the Springbok Women’s Sevens team since October 2013, joined Neil Powell as assistant coach for the Springbok Sevens as they started their preparations for the next two tournaments of the 2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Stellenbosch on Wednesday.
Delport, a former captain of the Blitzboks, has been elevated to the Women’s Sevens role after serving as SA Rugby Sevens Academy assistant coach in recent seasons.
In another coaching addition, Dr Warren Adams has been seconded from the Springbok management team to the position of Strength and Conditioning coach for the Springbok Sevens, which was left vacant by the departure of Allan Temple-Jones last year.
“These appointments will not only streamline our sevens operations, but will further strengthen the working relationships between our national sevens teams based in Stellenbosch,” said SA Rugby's Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
“The Blitzboks have a full season ahead of them, with not only eight tournaments left in the World Series, but also a Commonwealth Games and Rugby Sevens World Cup on the horizon, so it was important to strengthen the management structures.
“Neil requested the appointment of an assistant coach a while ago and he and Renfred enjoyed a solid relationship over many years, so it will be an easy fit. Warren is very highly rated in his field and has worked with the sevens team before, so is ideally suited to fill the vacancy left by Allan.”
Erasmus said the elevation of Delport is well-deserved for the former Blitzbok captain: “Paul has done really good work with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy team and has grown tremendously as a coach over the last couple of years.
“He has worked with the Springbok Women’s Sevens before, so there is no issue with continuity in their set-up. They are playing at a tournament in Australia early next month and will also be in action at the Commonwealth Games and Rugby Sevens World Cup later this year, so Paul will be busy in the next couple of months.
“The other important factor in all these appointments is the fact that they all are familiar with the structures and values associated with the sevens culture,” added Erasmus.
The Blitzboks will travel to Australia later this month for the HSBC Sydney Sevens, the third tournament in the World Series.
Springbok Castle Lager Rugby Championship home fixtures confirmed for 2018
The Springboks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship home fixtures for 2018 were confirmed on Monday with matches scheduled for Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth in the 22nd edition of the Southern Hemisphere championship.
The Wallabies will appear in Port Elizabeth for the first time in more than half a century when they take on the Springboks in the Eastern Cape on 29 September, while the All Blacks return to Pretoria for the first time in more than a decade when then they play at Loftus Versfeld on 6 October.
Meanwhile the Pumas will have happy memories for their return trip to Kings Park in Durban. On their last visit in 2015 they recorded their first victory over South Africa (37-25).
The Wallabies made the last of their four appearances in Port Elizabeth in 1963 (losing 22-6) while New Zealand’s last match at Loftus was in 2006 when they won 45-26.
Tickets for the matches at Loftus Versfeld and Kings Park will be available through the Blue Bulls and Sharks respectively. Details of ticket sales for the match at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium will be announced in the New Year.
Springbok Castle Lager Rugby Championship Fixtures 2018 (kick off times to be confirmed):
Blitzboks plan to use experience to their advantage
Experience and then some - that is the statistical reality of the Springbok Sevens team, who will start the HSBC Cape Town Sevens this weekend as the most experienced Blitzbok team ever.
Four players - Chris Dry (63), Kyle Brown (59), Branco du Preez (56) and Cecil Afrika (54) - have played in more than 50 tournaments, while Blitzbok captain Philip Snyman will be playing in his 49th.
A host of others have played 30 tournaments or more. The least experienced squad member is Tim Agaba, who will be in action in his 12th tournament.
The Blitzboks boast a combined tournament total of 458, or on average, 38 tournaments per player.
Dry, South Africa's second most capped player ever, has played in 304 matches and admits that the experience in the squad is a big bonus.
"That experience is very important and helps in tight situations,” said Dry.
“For me personally, to play 300 matches was a massive honour and something I am really proud of.
The experienced forward said they are aiming to be at their best in Cape Town: "We are fixing the small things that held us back in Dubai and training went well."
Du Preez commended his team mates on their contributions this week.
"Players such as Cecil Afrika, Rosko Specman and Justin Geduld are really special and to compete against them is not easy,” said Du Preez.
“We are supporting each other, but we also push each other to improve."
Du Preez was clear on the team's objectives for the weekend: "We need to get our focus right. That first match against Russia will set the tone for us.
“The fact that we play at home will lift us. It is awesome to be back in Cape Town and to feel the support," Du Preez said.
Apart from the traditional captain's run on Friday, the team completed their preparations at the Villager sports fields on Thursday.
Powell names unchanged side for HSBC Cape Town Sevens
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell rewarded the 12 players who won the opening tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai when he named an unchanged squad for the highly anticipated HSBC Cape Town Sevens on Wednesday.
The tournament takes place in the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday and Sunday and tickets were sold out in a matter of hours after they went on sale a couple of months ago.
“All the players would love to play in their only home tournament on the circuit, so the result at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens made it easy for me to pick the team,” said Powell.
“Everyone returned fit from that tournament and will have the added motivation of playing in front of a very supportive home crowd.
“The only change to our squad is the official reserve – we have included Siviwe Soyizwapi in the place of Marco Labuschagne – which was part of our planning all along.
“Siviwe travelled to Dubai as captain of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad, which gave him the opportunity to get some playing time. He performed very well there and he will slot in easily, should one of our players pick up and injury which rules him out of the tournament.”
Powell admitted that he was feeling slightly nervous as the tournament approached, but he is comfortable that his squad prepared well.
“We needed to fine-tune a couple of things that we did not execute well in Dubai,” said Powell.
“This we did that and still have two training sessions left this week, so we have to ensure the players are mentally ready for the big event.”
South Africa will play Russia, France and Kenya in Pool A of the competition on Saturday.
The Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens:
1. Chris Dry (63 tournaments, 304 matches, 455 points, 91 tries)
2. Philip Snyman (captain, 48 tournaments, 213 matches, 306 points, 55 tries)
3. Tim Agaba (11 tournaments, 55 matches, 45 points, 9 tries)
4. Kwagga Smith (28 tournaments, 141 matches, 290 points, 58 tries)
5. Werner Kok (30 tournaments, 148 matches, 360 points, 72 tries)
6. Kyle Brown (59 tournaments, 291 matches, 395 points, 79 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (56 tournaments, 281 matches, 1079 points, 79 tries)
8. Rosko Specman (22 tournaments, 117 matches, 278 points, 50 tries)
9. Justin Geduld (31 tournaments, 158 matches, 684 points, 76 tries)
10. Cecil Afrika (54 tournaments, 279 matches, 1322 points, 152 tries)
11. Seabelo Senatla (34 tournaments, 173 matches, 980 points, 196 tries)
12. Ruhan Nel (22 tournaments, 110 matches, 187 points, 37 tries)
13. Siviwe Soyizwapi* (12 tournament, 57 matches, 175 points, 35 tries)
Junior Boks to face hosts France at 2018 U20 Championship
The Junior Springboks have been drawn to face hosts France in Pool C of the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship, which will be played across three cities in the south of France from Wednesday, 30 May to Sunday, 17 June.
The two other teams in the Junior Boks’ pool are Ireland and Georgia.
Defending champions, New Zealand, have been drawn in Pool A with Australia, Wales and Japan, while 2017 runners up, England, will take on Scotland, Italy and Argentina in Pool B.
The pool stages of the tournament will be hosted at the Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan, Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers and the Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l'Amitié in Narbonne, with the venue for the semi-finals and final set to be announced in due course.
The Junior Springboks met France twice in this year’s tournament in Tbilisi, Georgia, where they drew 23-23 in their opening pool match, while they defeated the French 37-15 in the third-place playoff to win the bronze medal.
The SA U20s also defeated France in the 2016 and 2015 tournaments, while they overcame a strong challenge from Georgia in Tbilisi in June this year to secure a 38-14 victory in their second pool match.
The last time the Junior Springboks met Ireland in the tournament, however, was in 2012 where the South Africans went down 23-19 at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, but they recovered well to win the tournament.
“The World Rugby U20 Championship is a proven finishing school for aspiring international players, with some of the biggest names in the game having graduated amongst a group of more than 550 internationals, including double World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Beauden Barrett,” said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.
“Following the success of Georgia, which broke all social media records, we are delighted to be heading to France and the rugby cities of Narbonne, Béziers and Perpignan. I am sure that the championship will capture the imagination and it will be fascinating to see who graduates to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.”
Packed Cape Town Stadium to inspire Blitzboks – Snyman
A packed Cape Town Stadium and a sell-out crowd do give them extra legs and the Blitzboks are determined to reward the South African faithful with a commanding performance at the forthcoming HSBC Cape Town Sevens this weekend.
According to the Springbok Sevens captain, Philip Snyman, the team loves playing at home, but as they saw last year, it does not guarantee tournament win.
The 48-tournament veteran joined the other 15 team captains on the roof of the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday for a rather unique captains’ photograph and admitted afterwards that the nerves were starting to tingle.
"When we entered the stadium I felt some nervous energy and remembered our performances from last year,” said Snyman.
“We won five matches in a row thanks to some fantastic crowd support and then lost the final, the one that mattered, to England.
“That was much to the disappointment not only of ourselves, but the huge crowd as well. Although we are not looking back, those memories will make us more determined to go all the way.”
The Blitzboks love playing in front of their supporters, but Snyman believes the pressure will be a positive one.
"We start every tournament at zero, as we do with this one. We are not putting any pressure on ourselves, in fact, we will be going out there to enjoy this one,” said Snyman.
“We have faith in our structures and we know they work if implemented correctly. If we can do that this weekend and have a smile on our faces, it will be a good tournament.”
Marx leads nominations for SA Rugby Player of the Year Awards 2017
Springbok and Emirates Lions hooker Malcolm Marx leads the nominations for the SA Rugby Player of the Year 2017 awards with three, closely followed by four players who bagged two nominations each.
The 23-year-old Marx is nominated in the top category, SA Rugby Player of the Year, as well as for Young Player and Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year.
Marx’s fellow-nominees for SA Rugby Player of the Year are Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel and Jan Serfontein, all of whom were in impressive form not only for the Boks, but also for their Vodacom Super Rugby franchises earlier in the season.
The four players nominated in two categories are Jaco Kriel (SA Rugby and Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year), Warrick Gelant (Young Player and Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year), as well as Curwin Bosch and Damian Willemse, both of whom are nominated in the categories for Young Player and Junior Springbok Player of the Year.
“Four of these five players are aged 23 and younger, which bodes very well for the future of the game here in South Africa,” said SA Rugby President, Mr Mark Alexander.
“I would like to congratulate Malcolm, Jaco, Warrick, Curwin and Damian on their multiple nominations, as well as all the other players, coaches and teams who were recognised for their performances in 2017.”
The awards for Coach and Team of the Year are a straight shoot-out between three sides and their coaches – the Springbok Sevens team and Neil Powell, the Emirates Lions and Johan Ackermann, and DHL Western Province and John Dobson.
Powell led the Blitzboks to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series crown in 2016/17 and the team won a total of five tournaments; Ackermann’s Emirates Lions finished at the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby standings and were runners-up in the competition; and Dobson coached DHL Western Province to titles in the Currie Cup Premier Division and the new SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
Juarno Augustus, who was already crowned the World Rugby U20 Championship Player of the Tournament in June, is up against his SA U20 team-mates Bosch and Willemse for the Junior Springbok Player of the Year award.
And the three Blitzboks who are nominated for the Steinhoff Springbok Sevens Player of the Year award are Rosko Specman – one of the three candidates for the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Award for 2017 – Werner Kok and Chris Dry.
Other categories where awards will be made are: Supersport Try of the Year, Coca-Cola Craven Week Player of the Tournament, Outsurance Referee of the Year and Springbok Women’s Achiever of the Year, while Graham Knoop of DirectAxis False Bay was already named Club Player of the Year after the Gold Cup final last month.
The names of the winners will be announced early in the new season next year.
The nominees are (in alphabetical order):
SA Rugby Player of the Year
1 Eben Etzebeth
2 Siya Kolisi
3 Jaco Kriel
4 Malcolm Marx
5 Jan Serfontein
SA Rugby Young Player of the Year
1 Curwin Bosch
2 Jean-Luc du Preez
3 Warrick Gelant
4 Malcolm Marx
5 Damian Willemse
Team of the Year
1 Emirates Lions (Vodacom Super Rugby runners up)
2 Springbok Sevens (HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series winners)
3 DHL Western Province (Currie Cup Premier Division and Supersport Rugby Challenge winners)
Coach of the Year
1 Johan Ackermann (Emirates Lions)
2 John Dobson (DHL Western Province)
3 Neil Powell (Springbok Sevens)
Steinhoff Springbok Sevens Player of the Year
1 Chris Dry
2 Werner Kok
3 Rosko Specman
Junior Springbok Player of the Year
1 Juarno Augustus
2 Curwin Bosch
3 Damian Willemse
Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Tournament
1 Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions)
2 Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions)
3 Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions)
Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year
1 Nizaam Carr (DHL Western Province)
2 Robert du Preez (DHL Western Province)
3 Warrick Gelant (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year
1 Jaun Kotze (Down Touch Griffons)
2 Tertius Maarman (Down Touch Griffons)
3 Jeandré Rudolph (Leopards)
SuperSport Rugby Challenge Player of the Year
1 Craig Barry (DHL Western Province)
2 Enver Brandt (Tafel Lager Griquas)
3 Shaun Reynolds (Xerox Golden Lions XV)
Etzebeth to see specialist in Cape Town
Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth will see a specialist in Cape Town to further examine his shoulder and back injuries.
The towering lock was forced off the field just before halftime against Wales in Cardiff after he sustained a nerve injury, which caused severe pain in his left shoulder.
“The scans we took on Saturday evening after the match came out normal,” explained Dr Konrad von Hagen, the Springbok team doctor. “Eben will however visit a specialist in Cape Town to further investigate the injured shoulder and his troublesome back.”
Meanwhile, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee said a poor start cost his team at the Principality Stadium. Wales won the match 24-22 after thwarting a determined comeback from the South Africans.
“Wales got off to a flyer, scoring 14 points in the first ten minutes by using a very accurate kick for their first try and they exploited the space behind us for their second,” said Coetzee. “I am proud of the team for the way they fought back to claw their way into the lead and for showing character in the second half.
“We had our opportunities but a loose pass and some individual errors prevented us from taking those scoring opportunities.”
According to Coetzee, his side can be reasonably pleased with the four-match tour.
“We didn’t have a good start in Dublin, but we fought back to win against a determined French side in Paris and then delivered a clinical performance against Italy in very difficult weather conditions.
“If you look at where we started from at the beginning of the year, then I am pleased with the year overall. We started out as a new group, establishing a new team environment and got the results in the home series against France.
“We only lost to New Zealand in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, while we were perhaps unlucky in our two draws against Australia,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee praised the emergence of a new crop of Test players this year, and said: “In this group there are several players who played their first full season of international rugby, such as Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ross Cronje, Uzair Cassiem and Franco Mostert.
“We also saw the introduction of other young players such as Wilco Louw, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Warrick Gelant and Francois Venter. These players will only get better and gain more experience the more they play together at this level.
“Eben also did a fantastic job when he took of over the captaincy from Warren Whiteley and it was great to see him grow in the role, while I am pleased with the rest of leadership group – Siya (Kolisi), Elton (Jantjies), Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) and Francois Louw, who supported him well.
“Duane Vermeulen and Francois also brought a lot of experience to the group and they both enjoyed their time with the squad. The younger players learned a lot from both of them. They have a lot to offer to Springbok rugby,” said Coetzee.
The Springbok squad will arrive back in South Africa on Monday morning.
First Springbok starts for Gelant and Du Preez in Cardiff
Warrick Gelant and Dan du Preez will get their first starts for the Springboks in the final Test of 2017, against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
The inclusion of the exciting Gelant is one of five changes to the starting line-up announced by Springbok coach Allister Coetzee on Thursday for the last match of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.
Gelant was impressive when he came on as second half replacement against Italy last week for his Springbok debut and has replaced Courtnall Skosan on the left wing for his first start.
There are four changes amongst the forwards. Steven Kitshoff replaces the experienced Tendai Mtawarira, who is suffering from a groin injury and not available for selection.
Malcolm Marx has shrugged off his shoulder problem and takes over the hooker duties from Bongi Mbonambi, who moves to the bench.
Siya Kolisi is back in the side after missing the Italy Test because of paternal leave, and he comes in for Francois Louw on the side of the scrum, while Du Preez will also earns his first start in the No 8 jersey as replacement for Duane Vermeulen.
Louw, Vermeulen and Franco Mostert (lock) are back at their overseas clubs and not available because this match falls outside the World Rugby Test window.
Meanwhile, the uncapped duo of Lukhanyo Am (centre) and Louis Schreuder (scrumhalf) will join Mbonambi on the bench as two of a number of changes amongst the replacements, with Uzair Cassiem, Oupa Mohoje and Ruan Dreyer also included in the in the match day squad.
Coetzee said the squad has prepared well for the contest against Wales.
“We expect another gruelling contest against a strong Welsh team,” said Coetzee.
“It is another opportunity for this side to develop and grow, playing at the Principality Stadium in front of a passionate crowd of more than 65,000. It will be a different challenge altogether this week – Wales are renowned for their passing game and their width on attack.”
Regarding the shuffles in his team, the Bok coach said: “Dan gets the chance to start and he fits into the plan for Saturday.
“Warrick is an elusive runner, he used his opportunity last week and I am looking forward to see him getting a start on Saturday.
“It is great to welcome Malcolm back, however, Bongi did a superb job against Italy and I expect the same performance from him when he comes on later in the game.”
The battle for lineout possession will again be a key factor on Saturday, and in this regard Coetzee said: “I decided to select two loose forwards onto the bench because Pieter-Steph du Toit can cover lock, while Oupa and Uzair each have a skills set that can fit into different roles when needed.”
Eben Etzebeth will captain the Springbok team for the 11th time this season, playing in his 67 international match for South Africa.
The Springbok team to play against Wales in Cardiff is:
15. Andries Coetzee, Emirates Lions – 12 caps, 0 points
14. Dillyn Leyds, DHL Stormers – 8 caps, 5 points (1 try)
13. Jesse Kriel, Vodacom Bulls – 28 caps, 35 points (7 tries)
12. Francois Venter, Toyota Cheetahs – 6 caps, 5 points (1 try)
11. Warrick Gelant, Vodacom Bulls – 1 caps, 0 points
10. Handré Pollard, Vodacom Bulls – 25 caps, 206 points (2 tries, 35 conversions, 39 penalty goals, 3 drop goals)
9. Ross Cronje, Emirates Lions – 9 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
8. Dan du Preez, Cell C Sharks – 2 caps, 0 points
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, DHL Stormers – 31 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
6. Siya Kolisi, DHL Stormers, – 27 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
5. Lood de Jager, Vodacom Bulls – 35 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain), DHL Stormers – 66 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Wilco Louw, DHL Stormers – 4 caps, 0 points
2. Malcolm Marx, Emirates Lions – 13 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
1. Steven Kitshoff, DHL Stormers – 22 caps, 5 points (1 try)
16. Bongi Mbonambi, DHL Stormers – 13 caps, 5 points (1 try)
17. Trevor Nyakane, Vodacom Bulls – 36 caps, 5 points (1 try)
18. Ruan Dreyer, Emirates Lions – 4 caps, 5 points (1 try)
19. Oupa Mohoje, Toyota Cheetahs – 17 caps, 0 points
20. Uzair Cassiem, Toyota Cheetahs – 7 cap, 5 points (1 try)
21. Louis Schreuder, Cell C Sharks – 0 caps, 0 points
22. Elton Jantjies, Emirates Lions / NTT Shining Arcs (Japan) – 22 caps, 203 points (2 tries, 38 conversions, 38 penalty goals)
23. Lukhanyo Am, Cell C Sharks – 0 caps, 0 points
Kwagga Smith keen to keep on improving
Springbok Sevens forward Kwagga Smith is not only determined to add another successful stint with the Blitzboks to his already impressive rugby CV, he also wants to improve his skill set as a player, something he is almost guaranteed to do in the next couple of months on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The 2017/18 series starts on Friday, when the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens opens the ten tournament showpiece and for Smith, who experienced the ups and downs of rugby in 2016, it is another opportunity to grow and to improve as a player.
"It was a great year for me, considering all the teams I played for did well," Smith said shortly after the team arrived in Dubai.
"Dubai was fairly significant in that, as it was where it all started for the Blitzboks, getting the win and starting the season on a winning note. After that I also experienced a first win in Wellington, another box ticked off my bucket list with the boys."
Smith tasted tournament victories in three of the four tournaments he played for South Africa in the series and continued to impress in the fifteens code, playing for the Emirates Lions.
Smith was unfortunately red-carded in the final of Vodacom Super Rugby, but he took solace in the fact that his rugby friends supported him in that tough time.
"We had a great season in Vodacom Super Rugby and although I was sent off in that final, I learned a lot from that experience,” said Smith.
“You find athletes preparing for the 100 meters final of the Olympics only to get false-started, and their race is over before it had begun. We are all human, we all make mistakes. It is how you recover from such misfortunes - that is what people will remember.
"The Blitzboks form part of my close circle of friends and they were some of the first ones to pick me up again after that incident. They held no grudges, instead, they supported me all the way, so it was easy to come back into this group.”
Smith tasted the sweet in playing fifteens a couple of months later, when he was named Man of the Match for the Barbarians in a highly entertaining match against the All Blacks earlier this month.
He is not dwelling on that performance anymore, as satisfying as it was on many levels, and is rather keen to push the boundaries with the Blitzboks again.
"My mind-set or goals did not change, despite success and misfortune,” said Smith.
“I still strive to become a better player and person every day. Nothing has changed and it is great to be in an environment where everyone else feel the same.
"Sevens rugby takes no prisoners. You have to perform at your very best if you want to be successful. It is not easy, in fact, it is pretty tough. I don't see this as a challenge though, rather another opportunity to grow as a player.”
The Springbok Sevens will face Uganda, Kenya and Canada on Day One of the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens on Friday.
Springboks welcome back fit-again Marx and Kolisi
Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx and flanker Siya Kolisi will return to the training field on Monday as the team begins their preparations for the last Castle Lager Outgoing Tour match against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Marx sat out of the previous Test against Italy as a precautionary measure after he picked up a shoulder injury against France in Paris, while Kolisi was in South Africa for the birth of his second child. He re-joined the squad on Sunday.
Forwards Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen and Franco Mostert, who are all based overseas, are not available for the fixture because it falls outside of the international window.
Springbok team doctor, Dr Konrad von Hagen, again emphasised that the team will give experienced prop Tendai Mtawarira as much time as possible to recover from the groin injury he suffered against Italy so that he can be considered for selection. Thomas du Toit will, however, join the squad later on Monday as injury cover.
“The ‘Beast’ sustained a groin injury in the second half of the Italian clash in Padova, which forced him off the field,” said Von Hagen. “There were no other injury concerns, although some players will not participate in Monday’s training session at Cardiff Arms Park as part of the team’s recovery protocols.
“The squad is in very good condition, considering the fact that we are approaching our last match of the season.”
Looking back at the weekend’s win over Italy, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee again highlighted the convincing performance of the Springbok team.
“It was a good performance in tough weather conditions. I don’t think people realise how tough it was out there on Saturday. We were strong at set-piece time, our defence was good, and the replacements did well to maintain that standard,” explained Coetzee.
“We put in a good scrumming performance because the surface was firm, our mauling was superb and our lineout functioned well. The big thing for me is the work ethic in the team, and that showed in our massive defensive effort,” added Coetzee.
Regarding the challenge against Wales, the Springbok coach explained: “We will be playing against a very good Welsh team with a fantastic coaching staff and experienced international players. We know we have to be at our best again this weekend to keep on with the improvement in our game.”
The Springboks will announce their match 23 on Thursday.
Thomas du Toit called up to Springbok tour squad
Thomas du Toit has been called up to provide front row cover for the Springboks and is set to join the tour squad on Monday in Cardiff, Wales.
Tendai Mtawarira sustained a groin injury in Saturday’s 35-6 victory over Italy in Padova, and while the experienced front ranker will be afforded the maximum time to recover, it was decided to call up Du Toit as extra cover.
Meanwhile, the Springbok squad arrived in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon following their victory over Italy. The match in Cardiff is the final Test of the Springboks’ Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.
Coetzee praises Springboks for clinical performance in difficult conditions
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee praised his team for getting the job done by beating Italy 35-6 in very difficult conditions in Padova on Saturday.
The Springboks kept the Azzurri tryless for their biggest victory in Italy since 1997, while the haul of five tries was the most scored by the South Africans on Italian turf since 2001.
Coetzee was especially pleased with the performance of the Springbok forwards, who did a splendid job against a determined home onslaught in the Test, which was played in persistent rain and very slippery conditions.
“I think it was a very clinical effort by especially our pack of forwards, who laid the foundation for a pleasing performance,” said Coetzee.
“And the backs adapted well in being direct. You have to work very hard up here in the Northern Hemisphere and be able to adjust your game, which I thought we did very well.
“Our composure was good throughout the match, and I have to praise the team’s leadership, who were yet again outstanding. We had a plan and they ensured we stuck to it.
“Our set piece was excellent and although the conditions were not good for our backs, they contributed with a very good defensive effort to help keep our opponents scoreless,” added Coetzee.
Four of the Springbok tries were scored by forwards, and Coetzee was satisfied with the effort of the starting pack as well as the replacement forwards.
Francois Louw crossed the tryline in the 13th minute, and he was followed by Bongi Mbonambi, Francois Venter, Steven Kitshoff and Franco Mostert, all of whom scored their first Test tries in the Green and Gold.
Three overseas-based players – Louw, Mostert and Duane Vermeulen – will return to their respective clubs on Sunday, while Siya Kolisi will re-join the Springbok squad in Wales, having missed the Italian Test because of the birth of his second child.
Japan-based Elton Jantjies will remain with the team for their last tour match, next Saturday against Wales in Cardiff.
Tendai Mtawarira sustained a groin injury in the first half of the Italian Test and a call on his availability will be made later in the week.
The Springboks will travel to Cardiff on Sunday, where they will prepare themselves for their last Test of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour at the Principality Stadium.
Powell names most experienced Blitzbok squad ever for Dubai
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, welcomed back Blitzboks regulars Kyle Brown, Kwagga Smith, Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla to his squad for the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, the opening tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, to be played at The Sevens Stadium on 1 and 2 December.
Brown only played in the first two tournaments of the 2016/17 before he picked up a serious knee injury, Geduld missed five tournaments due to a foot injury, and Smith and Senatla missed six each because of Vodacom Super Rugby commitments.
Tim Agaba is the only player in the team who did not travel to Dubai last year, where South Africa’s victory kick-started a wonderful season for the Blitzboks.
The Blitzboks are laden with experience, with the average number of tournaments per player standing at 37, the highest average ever for a Springbok Sevens team in the World Series tournament.
“We are fortunate to be in this situation,” said Powell.
“There was a concerted effort to broaden our player base last season as we knew we would lose Seabelo and Kwagga after four tournaments, but then we lost Kyle and Justin to injury as well and that certainly tested us.
“Despite blooding a handful of new guys last year, we still have the benefit of a really solid squad. We were blessed with the lack of injuries, especially as a number of the players had a stint in fifteens as well.”
Powell feels that the mental challenge will be as big as the physical one.
“We know we can win tournaments if we believe in our systems and structures,” said Powell.
“The reality is that we will have a target on our backs this year, being the defending champions, not only in the series, but also in Dubai. We need to keep on believing that we can maintain the standards we have set as a team.”
Philip Snyman will again captain the side during the series.
“It is hard to believe it is that time of the year again and to be honest, we can’t wait to get onto the field and play,” said Snyman.
“It was a tough pre-season, but once the full squad joined, so did the intensity and focus.”
The experienced Snyman will be representing South Africa in his 48th tournament and he is as keen as his debut at this venue way back in 2008.
“Make no mistake, all the teams are getting better and better and if you are not at your best, anyone can beat you,” he warned.
“We have seen that and experienced it ourselves in the past, so cannot look past Uganda in our first match. After that, we can move our focus on to Kenya and Canada, our other opponents in the pool.”
The Springbok Sevens squad for Dubai:
1. Chris Dry (62 tournaments, 298 matches, 455 points, 91 tries)
2. Philip Snyman (captain, 47 tournaments, 207 matches, 296 points, 53 tries)
3. Tim Agaba (10 tournaments, 49 matches, 30 points, six tries)
4. Kwagga Smith (28 tournaments, 135 matches, 275 points, 55 tries)
5. Werner Kok (29 tournaments, 142 matches, 350 points, 70 tries)
6. Kyle Brown (58 tournaments, 285 matches, 395 points, 79 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (55 tournaments, 275 matches, 1049 points, 77 tries)
8. Rosko Specman (21 tournaments, 111 matches, 273 points, 49 tries)
9. Justin Geduld (30 tournaments, 152 matches, 677 points, 75 tries)
10. Cecil Afrika (53 tournaments, 273 matches, 1297 points)
11. Seabelo Senatla (33 tournaments, 167 matches, 945 points, 189 tries)
12. Ruhan Nel (21 tournaments, 104 matches, 182 points, 36 tries)
13. Marco Labuschagne* (1 tournament, 2 matches, 0 points)