The crop of new additions who joined the Springbok Sevens training squad in Stellenbosch have slotted in well as the group notched up a gear in their preparation for the next two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
The training squad was bolstered recently with the call-up of Springbok JJ Engelbrecht and several provincial players who returned from Absa Currie Cup duty.
The addition of Engelbrecht, Jesse Kriel, Warrick Gelant, Sampie Mastriet (all Vodacom Blue Bulls), Cheslin Kolbe, Justin Geduld (DHL Western Province), Rosko Specman (Steval Pumas), Mark Richards and Kwagga Smith (both Xerox Golden Lions) have increased the training group to 26 players.
On Tuesday Powell praised the attitude of the new and returning players respectively and said they all slotted in with ease. “We had two good weeks of training so far and the players who have joined us have all come in with a great attitude,” explained Powell.
The coach said the entire group was aware that they would have to fight for places in the 12-man group that will be selected for the Dubai and Port Elizabeth tournaments.
“We have a plan for the guys returning from provincial duty and players such as JJ who joined us for the first time,” explained Powell. “They worked extremely hard during the past two days to get into the system. With that in mind, we have scheduled a series of training matches on Thursday and Friday against several university teams. That will give us an opportunity to test them in match-like conditions.”
Several Blitzboks regulars sat out of Tuesday’s two hard training sessions. Frankie Horne and Branco du Preez are battling with niggles, while Phillip Snyman (calf) and Stephan Dippenaar (hamstring) have been ruled out of action and won’t be considered for selection for Dubai and PE.
Powell indicated that he will trim his senior squad to a more manageable size on 24 November, three days before he announces the travelling party of twelve players. Those not selected for the Blitzboks will be considered for the SA Sevens Academy team for the December International Invitational Tournaments in Zimbabwe and Dubai respectively.
Dubai is the next stop on the nine-tournament circuit, with the desert city hosting the best Sevens players on 5 and 6 December. The World Series then returns to South Africa a week later when Port Elizabeth hosts the annual Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens.
South Africa were finalists last year in Dubai and managed to capture their home title a week later in a pulsating Cup final against arch-rivals New Zealand.
The Springbok Sevens finished fourth at the season-opening Gold Coast tournament in Australia, and with Olympic qualification for the top four teams on the final log looming large, the Blitzboks will be keen to improve on their previous performance.