Blitzbokke handed tough group for DubaiComment on this story
Johannesburg – South Africa will have to navigate a tough pool assignment on Friday, the first-day of the Dubai Sevens, when they face England, Samoa and Portugal in Pool C.
The Springbok Sevens start their campaign against defending tournament champions England before facing Portugal and then powerful Samoa in their final pool fixture.
The Blitzbokke will be aiming to get a good start at a venue where they have traditionally done well, despite the fact that England are always crowd favourites in Dubai.
Samoa pose a difficult physical challenge, while Portugal are never an easy fixture.
Key Springbok Sevens playmaker Branco du Preez suffered a hamstring injury in training on Wednesday and has been replaced in the final list of 12 by Ruwellyn Isbell, who made his debut in round one of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Australia last month.
The loss of scrum-half Du Preez is a blow for coach Paul Treu, who is already without the services of the injured Cecil Africa, a former IRB Sevens Player of the Year.
The South Africans have two debutantes in their squad for Dubai, namely loose forward Warren Whiteley and highly-rated scrumhalf Kevin Luiters.
The organisers are predicting the biggest ever Dubai tournament in its 43-year history, with around 100,000 fans expected to converge on the Sevens venue to watch not only the 16 IRB men and women's competition, but also a record-breaking 175 invitation teams over three days.
With all eyes on rugby Sevens as a sport included in the 2016
Rio Olympics, and a Sevens Rugby World Cup to be held in Moscow next summer, women rugby players will break new ground in Dubai.
The Dubai Rugby Sevens will host the first round of the inaugural IRB Women's Sevens World Series, in which 12 of the best national sides, including South Africa, will compete.
The South African women face tournament favourites England in their opening match, then Spain and Brazil.
The Dubai fixtures for the Springbok Sevens and SA Women on Friday are:
Springbok Sevens: 9.20am SA vs England; 1.06pm SA vs Portugal; 5.44pm SA vs Samoa. SA Women: 10am SA vs England; 2.14pm SA vs Spain; and 6.28pm SA vs Brazil. – Sapa