The Springbok Sevens have named uncapped Xerox Golden Lions centre Ruhan Nel in their 12-man squad for the opening tournament of the IRB Sevens World Series tournament at the Gold Coast, which takes place on 11 and 12 October in Australia. Nel is one of four changes to the squad that won the Commonwealth Gold medal in Glasgow in their last outing in July. Regular captain Kyle Brown is still recovering from shoulder surgery and will therefore miss the season kick-off at the Gold Coast.
Veteran forward Frankie Horne will lead the Springbok Sevens in his 60th consecutive World Series tournament. Cornal Hendricks and Warren Whitely were not considered as they are on Springbok duty, while Mark Richards has Absa Currie Cup commitments at the Golden Lions. Their unavailability paved the way for the return of fit-again regulars Philip Snyman, Stephan Dippenaar and Steven Hunt in the Springbok Sevens squad.
Flanker Kwagga Smith will join the squad after the Golden Lions’ Currie Cup match against the Cell C Sharks on Friday evening. Speedster Seabelo Senatla and playmaker Justin Geduld have also returned from Currie Cup duty with DHL Western Province. The attacking duo have slotted in with ease at the team’s training sessions in Stellenbosch this week.
The 23-year old Nel has already represented the Lions in Vodacom Super Rugby and is only the third player to make his Springbok Sevens debut since Neil Powell took over the coaching reigns at the beginning of last season. With 2016 Olympic qualification looming large for all of the teams this season, Powell said the Springbok Sevens, just the like the 15 other participating teams, will be eager to strive for consistency from the opening tournament. The top four teams on the final World Series standings will gain automatic entry into the Sevens competition at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
South Africa will face African rivals Kenya, Wales and American Samoa at the Gold Coast. “We have worked hard in the past few weeks to get into shape for the Gold Coast. Our success in Glasgow will obviously bring added expectations, but we will keep our feet on the ground and continue to work hard to make sure we don’t become complacent,” said Powell. The team will practise in Johannesburg from Thursday before their departure to Australia on Sunday evening.
Photo: Chris Dry in action at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
Photo credit: Wessel Oosthuizen/ SASPA