The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has named a Springbok Sevens squad of 16 players for the warm-up tournament in Middelburg, which gets underway on Friday. The event will be the only pre-season tournament where the Blitzbokke will be in action before they leave for Australia to kick-off the HSBC Sevens World Series at the Gold Coast Sevens.
Promising wing Tshotsho Mbovane makes a welcome return to the squad after he was sidelined for a long period because of a knee injury. Branco du Preez and Kyle Brown have also just recently completed their injury rehabilitation and although the pair are included in the squad, their involvement in the tournament will be limited.
South Africa will be in action against the likes of Wales, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and a host of local provincial selections.
Paul Treu, the Springbok Sevens coach, said his squad was looking forward to get their season underway in Middelburg.
“We are excited about this season because the HSBC Sevens World Series will again be a very tough tournament, and we also have the Sevens Rugby World Cup to look forward to next year in Russia.”
The SA Sevens management team worked extremely hard during the off-season to get a cluster of injured players back into shape for what promises to be another thrilling international season of Sevens Rugby.
“We will be twice in action against Wales, the defending World Cup champions, over the coming weekend. They are a quality side so I am looking forward to test our guys against them.
“We are going to make full use of this tournament because it is the only time that we will be in action before we leave for the Gold Coast. Our management team has worked overtime to get the players ready after the squad suffered many injuries at the end of last season,” added Treu.
Earlier today the Blitzbokke had a fun-filled kitting session in Cape Town and travel later on Wednesday to Middelburg.
The Springbok Sevens for Middelburg is:
Kyle Brown, Chris Dry, Steven Hunt, Cheslin Kolbe, Paul Delport, Cecil Afrika, Tshotsho Mbovane, Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Kwagga Smith, Frankie Horne, Craig Barry, Cornal Hendricks, Bernardo Botha, Pieter Engelbrecht, Reuben Johannes.
Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board has announced details of the exciting new qualification pathway into the HSBC Sevens World Series, as the sport enters its first Olympic cycle and continues to build towards its Games debut in 2016.
For the 2012/13 season, which kicks off on Australia's Gold Coast on October 13-14 2012, the number of core teams that participate in each of the nine rounds has increased from 12 to 15, following the qualification of Canada, Portugal and Spain.
From the end of the 2012/13 Series, promotion and relegation from core team status will come into effect, with a pre-qualifying competition in Hong Kong and a final core team qualifier in London at the ninth and final round of the season.
The 2013 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will feature 28 teams, an increase on the usual 24, and will comprise two distinct competitions: In the first, the 15 current core teams and the winner of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series will compete for the famous Hong Kong title and World Series points. In the second competition, 12 teams - two qualifiers from each of the six regional tournaments - will compete for places at the core team qualifying final in London.
The Marriott London Sevens, the final round of the Series, will also feature two distinct tournaments, and a total of 20 teams. In the first, the top 12-ranked sides in the HSBC Sevens World Series standings after round eight in Glasgow will compete for the London title, and final World Series points towards their overall tally. In the second, the 13th, 14th and 15th-ranked core teams after the Glasgow event will compete against five pre-qualified regional teams from Hong Kong, for the three available core team places on the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series.
The introduction of the exciting new format is in line with the comprehensive IRB Sevens Plan that was developed in partnership with the IRB's Member Unions and approved by the IRB Council last November. It reflects the IRB's mission to deliver a pathway that ensures all Member Unions have a transparent and merit-based opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016.