Livewire scrumhalf and sweeper Branco du Preez returns to action with the Springbok Sevens team on Friday evening at the Las Vegas Sevens after a long injury layoff because of a hamstring injury. However, he will probably be used primarily off the bench on day one of the three-day tournament.
Du Preez missed the previous rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai, Wellington and Port Elizabeth and will add some much-needed experience and attacking options to the injury-plagued Springbok Sevens team.
Ironically, fit-again Du Preez flew into Vegas at the beginning of the week as replacement for rookie Justin Geduld who suffered a fractured wrist in his debut tournament last weekend in Wellington, New Zealand. South Africa lost in the Plate semi-finals in Wellington and will be determined to deliver a much-improved performance at a venue where they have triumphed two seasons ago.
Team captain Frankie Horne promised as much: “We sorted out those little things that bugged us in Wellington, like our defence,” he said. “Most of the mistakes we made were due to a lack of focus. Those are little things where we did not pay attention to detail. We addressed those issues quite harshly and I am confident things will go much better this weekend.”
The BlitzBokke won the 2011 tournament in the Sam Boyd Stadium and Horne believes they will be strong contenders again. “I think the players are in a good space for this one and very determined to give it their best. Two years ago we also needed to sharpen up from Wellington and hopefully we will manage to do the same this weekend. Hopefully those small adjustments will bring the results.”
The Springbok Sevens are grouped with Wellington Cup-finalists Kenya, Canada and Uruguay and during the pool stage will get the opportunity to avenge last weekend’s defeats against fellow Africans Kenya and fast-improving Canada.
Paul Treu, the Springbok Sevens coach, said his squad realise they have an important task ahead of them in Las Vegas. “There’s no hiding from the fact that we must step up in a big way from our disappointing showing in Wellington. The boys are determined to play to their full potential and to show the fighting spirit we are known for,” said Treu.
South Africa are currently in joint fourth position on the World Series standings on 51 points, which are led by New Zealand.
The South Africa squad for the Las Vegas Sevens:
1. Chris Dry
2. Philip Snyman
3. Frankie Horne (captain)
4. Warren Whiteley
5. Cornal Hendricks
6. Branco du Preez
7. Stephan Dippenaar
8. Pieter Engelbrecht
9. Paul Delport
10. Cheslin Kolbe
11. Tshotsho Mbovane
12. Seabelo Senatla
The South Africa pool fixtures in Las Vegas (local time):
SA vs. Uruguay 03:06 (Saturday)
SA vs. Canada 06:02 (Saturday)
SA vs. Kenya 23:50 (Saturday)