It will be Branco du Preez’s 74th World Series Sevens tournament while Cecil Afrika will play in his 63rd one and Werner Kok will bring up his half century. The squad is packed with familiar faces for the Los Angeles leg of the tournament which is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday.
But there are also some new faces with Sako Makata (seven tournaments) and Mfundo Ndhlovu (four tournaments) add to the mix.
Makata is back in the tournament squad for the first time since June last year and Ndhlovu, the official reserve, also last played in Paris in 2019.
Having made his World Series Sevens debut in Las Vegas last year, Makata brings cool and calm to the squad.
He missed the start of the season due to an ankle injury and only made his return to the World Series last month, when he travelled to New Zealand and Australia as the official reserve. Makata was called into the squad in Sydney when Impi Visser was ruled out and played in the final against Fiji, which South Africa lost 12-10.
The youngster is delighted to be back and has been swotting up while he’s been away from the field.
“I am excited to be back and that comes from some hard work behind the scenes, doing rehab and getting back to match fitness. I am pretty keen to contribute on the field now and give it my best shot,” the 22-year-old said.
“I watched the guys in my position in particular and what they were doing and what I would have done if I was in that situation,” said Makata.
“I am learning all the time and that worked for me, trying to put myself in their boots. There is often a different perspective from the outside and being in that match situation yourself and combining the two makes you better, I believe.”
Makata has played 26 matches and he’s looking forward to adding to tally and making a statement.
“I would have loved to have played more, but we have a big squad with a lot of quality players and coupled with my injury, I missed out.
“The importance though is grabbing this opportunity and showing that I can contribute to the squad and the system this weekend,” he said, adding that he welcomes the competition in the squad, as it improves his development as a player.
“It brings the best out in everyone and I can learn from some very experienced guys in the squad as well. It certainly improved me as a player and now I have the opportunity to convert that in the tournament.”
The Blitzboks are second seeds in the tournament and will play alongside Ireland, Canada and Kenya in Pool B.