The Springbok Sevens team on Monday called up the uncapped Tim Agaba for the Sydney leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series as replacement for Justin Geduld, who is returning home with a shoulder injury. Geduld landed awkwardly during a tackle against New Zealand in their pool match in Wellington on Saturday morning (SA time). He did not play at all on Sunday, leaving the already injury-hit Springbok Sevens team to complete the rest of the tournament with just 11 players.
Juan De Jongh also left the field early in the Wellington Cup final against New Zealand due to leg cramps, but he has been given the green light to participate in the Sydney Sevens this weekend. Agaba signed a full-time contract with the national squad only a few months ago after playing a starring role for the Eastern Province Kings during the 2015 Currie Cup, and he is considered as a very bright prospect. Current Sevens World Player of the Year, Werner Kok, as well as the experienced quartet of Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika and Branco Du Preez, are all missing from the travelling squad because of injury, while Ryno Benjamin returned home on the eve of the Wellington event because of a calf injury.
Five of the Springbok Sevens players who participated in the Wellington tournament have played in less than five World Series tournaments, which makes their outstanding showing in Wellington more remarkable and shows the quality of the depth within the squad. Sandile Ngcobo made his debut this past weekend, while Carel Du Preez (4), Francois Hougaard (3), Dylan Sage (2) and De Jongh (4) are all relatively inexperienced in World Series tournaments. Neil Powell, Springbok Sevens coach, said Agaba now has the opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level: ‘He played very well for the EP Kings in the Currie Cup and also starred for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side in their three tournaments recently in Dubai and South America respectively. Tim only joined our setup recently and I know he is still inexperienced. But the only way to test whether a player is capable of playing at this level is by giving him a chance.’
According to Powell, Agaba will slot in amongst the forwards with the versatile Dylan Sage moving to the backs. Commenting on the loss of the in-form Geduld, Powell said the team showed in New Zealand that they have sufficient cover. He says: ‘Losing Justin is a blow, not only because of his current form, but also because he is one of the leaders in our backline and he does good work off-field as well. However, with Rosko Specman, Cheslin Kolbe and Francois Hougaard we have three players that are able to cover the sweeper / flyhalf roles.’ Meanwhile, the Springbok Sevens arrived in the Australian capital on Monday following their agonising loss to New Zealand in the thrilling Wellington Sevens Cup final.
The Blitzbokke were in sublime form on Sunday and defeated Australia and Fiji in the quarter-final and semi-final stages respectively. New Zealand managed to snatch the title away from the South Africans with a last-minute try. South Africa are the top seeds in Pool B in Sydney, where they will face Kenya, Scotland and Russia on day one at the Allianz Stadium. They currently top of the World Series standings with 54 points after three tournaments.
The Springbok Sevens squad for the HSBC Sydney Sevens tournament this weekend:
- Chris Dry (47 World Series tournaments)
- Philip Snyman (33, captain)
- Carel Du Preez (4)
- Kwagga Smith (17)
- Sandile Ngcobo (1)
- Francois Hougaard (3)
- Cheslin Kolbe (Western Province, 11)
- Dylan Sage (2)
- Tim Agaba (0)
- Rosko Specman (8)
- Seabelo Senatla (22)
- Juan De Jongh (Western Province, 4)