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Blitzboks must make do

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That “far from ideal” situation is one the Springbok Sevens side have found themselves in many times this season. And that sitiation’s name is injury

Siviwe Soyizwapi will captain the SA Sevens team in the absence of the injured Philip Snyman in Hong Kong next weekend. Picture: Chris Ricco BackpagePix

If there’s one thing the Blitzboks know all too well, it’s that sometimes you just have to make do with what you have, no matter how far from ideal the situation might be.

That “far from ideal” situation is one the Springbok Sevens side have found themselves in many times this season. And that sitiation’s name is injury.

It certainly hasn’t made things any easier for the team, especially after they also had to deal with the departure of a significant amount of experience.

This time, ahead of next weekend’s Hong Kong Sevens not much has changed.

Siviwe Soyizwapi will captain the team in the absence of the injured Philip Snyman in Asia next week as the regular skipper is still recovering from the head knock he suffered at the Vancouver Sevens, where the Blitzboks not only played in their first Cup final of the 2018/19 series, but also claimed their first tournament win of the season.

Young speedster Muller du Plessis will also miss out on a seat to the seventh leg of the series thanks to injury.

Then there’s JC Pretorius, who made the Dream Team in Vancouver, who will also miss out due to injury.

And while the disruption that injury brings is often, well, disruptive, it also presents new opportunities.

And that’s one thing coach Neil Powell has done a lot of this season – gifting opportunities.

Twenty-year-old Angelo Davids will get such an opportunity after being named on the wing in Du Plessis’ absence, while Ryan Oosthuizen will come in for Philip Snyman.

Kurt-Lee Arendse, who made the trip to Canada as a replacement, will also get a big opportunity when he takes Werner Kok’s regular spot out wide, with Kok moving to the forwards.

Momentum

According to Powell, the top-of-the-podium finish in Vancouver will provide the Blitzboks with some momentum, while he is also confident that those opportunities will be effectively used.

“In the ideal world the same squad would have travelled to Hong Kong, but we had to replace three players due to injury,” said Powell.

“That created special opportunities for Shakes (Sowyizwapi) and Angelo, who will debut as captain and player respectively. Shakes was identified as a future leader and made part of the leadership group before the season started and he led the team admirably in those final two matches in Vancouver – I am confident that he will continue to do so.

“Angelo has been part of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy for the last two years and played very well on their recent trip to South America. He is a hard worker and very coachable, so I have a lot of confidence in his ability. He is fast and great on defence, and will fit into the team culture with ease.”

While the Hong Kong event will present a number of opportunities for individual players, the Blitzboks, as a unit, also have a shot at strengthening their position on the standings.

Currently in court spot with 89 points (behind USA – 113, New Zealand – 106 and Fiji – 101) the Blitzboks will want to stay within the top four, as the four highest ranked teams will gain automatic qualification to the Olympic Games in Japan.

But apart from that, on-field performance is going to be another key factor.

The Blitzboks impressed in Canada after a very slow – and at times frustrating – start to the season.

In Vancouver they showed what they can do, and Hong Kong will present another opportunity – for individuals and for the team – to show that the feat wasn’t a one-off thing, but rather growth.

SA Sevens’ Pool A fixtures

Friday April 5

12.06pm: vs Japan

Saturday April 6

5.41am: vs Scotland

9.22am: vs Samoa