Juan De Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe returned to the Stormers Super Rugby franchises on Tuesday following appearances for the Springbok Sevens side in the first four rounds of the World Rugby Sevens Series. De Jongh and Kolbe, as well as Ryno Benjamin of the Cheetahs, joined the Springbok Sevens squad at the beginning of the season as part of an agreement between SA Rugby and the local franchises. The Cape duo of De Jongh and Kolbe starred in all four World Series tournaments for the Springbok Sevens, while a calf injury restricted Benjamin’s appearances to just two events.
The trio, as well as some other local franchise stars, are expected to join the Springbok Sevens group again at the end of the World Series for an Olympic Games training camp. Rugby Sevens will make its debut at the Rio Olympic Games in August. Neil Powell, the Springbok coach, is using a rotation system to rest some of his players and at the same time integrate some fifteens players in an effort to increase the depth of the squad for the forthcoming Olympics.
Powell handed Springbok Sevens debuts to Tim Agaba and Sandile Ngcobo at the Wellington and Sydney tournaments, while he also gave playing opportunities to the inexperienced Carel Du Preez and Dylan Sage. Meanwhile, Springbok and former Sharks eightman Ryan Kankowski, as well as Pumas utility back Hoffman Maritz, have joined the Springbok Sevens training squad in Stellenbosch. Kankowski has played in 20 Test for the Springboks between 2007 and 2012 and last year signed a sevens contract with SA Rugby following the completion of his club rugby commitment in Japan.
He has been working hard on his conditioning since his arrival in Stellenbosch while the squad was in Australasia. He played in four World Series tournaments in 2006. Maritz, who can play centre and fullback, is no stranger to sevens and he me made all six of his appearances on the World Series circuit in 2010. Powell meanwhile praised the impact and contribution of the franchise players, and said he was looking forward to their return later in the season, saying: ‘Juan, Cheslin and Ryno made a huge impact during their time with us. Juan, who have not been part of our system previously, did especially well since joining us a couple of months ago.’
He added that De Jongh, the Western Province skipper, quickly settled in quickly in his Sevens surroundings: ‘Juan did very well to adjust to our culture and our systems in such a short time. You could see that he improved in every tournament, he is a quality player and he made a valuable contribution.’ Benjamin and Kolbe are Springbok Sevens regulars although they don’t play the shorter version of the game on a fulltime basis. The Springbok Sevens returned home on Monday evening from Sydney, where they finished fourth in the Australian tournament.
The previous week they lost a thrilling Cup final in Wellington when New Zealand scored a last-gasp try to snatch the title. On Tuesday in Stellenbosch the squad completed their compulsory medical examinations. The players will now take a short break and return to camp next Monday to start on preparations for the next two tournaments on the World Series circuit, next month in Las Vegas and Vancouver.
Philip Snyman underwent scans to determine the extent of his shoulder injury, while Justin Geduld will be out of action for up to three weeks because of his shoulder niggle.
Photo credit: Martin Seras Lima