Makata excited to return for the Blitzboks in Los Angeles Sevens
The Blitzboks will not be short of experience this weekend when they pitch up at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Los Angeles, for the LA Sevens on Saturday and Sunday.
The star-studded South Africans will feature Branco du Preez in his 74th World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, Cecil Afrika his 63rd and Werner Kok his 50th, so it is fair to say that the Blitzboks will not be shrinking violets.
On the other end of the scale, you will find youthful impresarios in Sako Makata (seven tournaments) and Mfundo Ndhlovu (four tournaments), but both return to the US leg of the circuit clear on what they need to do to add value to the Blitzboks’ effort on the weekend.
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.
Makata made his World Series debut in Las Vegas a year ago and his second visit to the US brings calm and determination to comply with his role and responsibility in the squad.
According to the former Sterling High School winger, now playing as a prop in the sevens code, getting back into the match day squad is a relief as well as a blessing.
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.
“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 keen to contribute on the field now and give it my best shot,” the 22-year-old confessed.
The time off the field – excluding when he did rehabilitation and conditioning – was also spent watching the team play and learning from that, although only mentally.
“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.”
Ndhlovu made his debut in Hong Kong in 2018 and again featured in Paris in the same season. Last year, he played in Las Vegas and Paris and hopes for a longer run this time around.
“I certainly missed out on valuable game time in the last two years, but that was God’s plan for me, and I accept that. I am blessed to still be here and would like to make the most of the opportunities that will still come my way,” he said.
The Blitzboks are second seeds in the tournament and will play alongside Ireland, Canada and Kenya in Pool B.