Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby
There are stark differences in terms of experience between South Africa’s men’s and women’s Cape Town Sevens squads, but both groups of players are raring to go. The two sides will be in action concurrently from 13-15 December.
Neil Powell has selected a highly experienced Blitzboks group, sticking to the tried and tested formula. He has not made any changes to the squad which claimed the cup in Dubai.
Siviwe Soyizwapi captains a side brimming with talent. Rosko Specman, who won the Impact Player award last weekend, will be hoping for a similarly impressive performance in the Mother City.
Cape Town will be Specman’s last tournament before joining the Bulls with their Super Rugby preparations alongside Dylan Sage. Seabelo Senatla and Ruhan Nel will link up with the Stormers.
Another Super Rugby player, the Lions’ Hacjivah Dayimani, will miss the tournament through an ankle injury. Having starred in the SA Sevens Academy side’s victory in the Dubai Sevens International Invitational tournament, this could have been a superb chance for him to kick on but for misfortune.
“We did bring in Hacjivah Dayimani as 13th player as we wanted to give him a feel for the World Series, but his ankle injury put paid to that idea,” Powell explained.
“Impi Visser will be our official reserve this time around and I am quite comfortable having him around. He played very well for us last season and will be ready to slot in if needed.”
Chris Dry will be the most experienced Blitzboks player at the Cape Town Sevens with 69 tournaments to his name. Kurt-Lee Arendse (five) and JC Pretorius (six) are the only two in the squad who have yet to reach double figures.
South Africa are in the so-called “Pool of Death” alongside Japan, USA and Fiji. They will face Japan on Friday at 20:03 before squaring off with the top two sides from last season’s World Series standings the following day (13:51 and 20:03 respectively).
Meanwhile, Springbok Women’s Sevens coach Paul Delport picked six debutants in his 12-player squad for the first Women’s Cape Town Sevens.
Rights Mkhari, Buhle Sonamzi, Catha Jacobs, Sizo Solontsi, Meghan Phillips and Liske Lategan will all make their World Series bows, as will reserve Lusanda Dumke if she is given the chance to play.
Zenay Jordaan (11) and Mathrin Simmers (seven) have 18 tournaments between them, but the next most experienced player is captain Zintle Mpupha with three.
Mpupha is one of many South African women’s rugby players who played another sport prior to reaching the top of the game. In her case, that sport was cricket and she played for Border, also turning out for the Border Bulldogs rugby team.
Alyssa Conley, a former Olympic sprinter and sister to Highlands Park FC biokineticist Simone Conley, has been ruled out of this year’s Cape Town Sevens with a foot injury. This is despite the Women’s Sevens having sat out the Dubai tournament to ensure they were in peak condition for this weekend.
The Imbokodo face a baptism of fire against defending World Series champions New Zealand on Friday in their first match before taking on mid-table Russia and Fiji on Saturday.
“We will have the emotions of running out onto the field at home for the very first time – that is already some reward for our hard work and efforts over the last couple of months,” Delport said.
“We are going into this tournament with a huge amount of excitement, and no real pressure, so we can really just go out to express ourselves and enjoy this wonderful moment for the tournament and the World Series.”
Blitzboks Cape Town Sevens squad: Chris Dry, Ryan Oosthuizen, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, JC Pretorious, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Selvyn Davids, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Seabelo Senatla and Ruhan Nel. Reserve: Impi Visser.
Imbokodo Cape Town Sevens squad: Rights Mkhari, Christelene Steinhobel, Buhle Sonamzi, Zintle Mpupha, Zenay Jordaan, Meghan Phillips, Eloise Webb, Sizo Solontsi, Nadine Roos, Mathrin Simmers, Catha Jacobs and Liske Lategan. Reserve: Lusanda Dumke.