Cape Town - After the disappointment of a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, the Blitzboks will begin a new four-year cycle by taking on USA, Scotland and a qualifier at the Dubai Sevens in early December.
The draw for the first leg of the 2016-17 World Sevens Series took place on Thursday, and the Blitzboks will look to get some revenge on the Scots, who had three players – Mark Bennett, Mark Robertson and Ruaridh McConnochie – who were part of the combined Great Britain team that beat South Africa 7-5 in the Cup semi-final of the Rio Olympics.
Scotland also beat South Africa in the London Sevens final last season.
Neil Powell’s team went on to claim the third place and add a bronze medal to Team South Africa’s overall tally of 10 when they thrashed Japan 54-14, but it was scant consolation after they had come so close to getting past the British outfit.
Olympic gold medallists and defending World Series champions Fiji were drawn in Pool A with Argentina, Wales and Canada, while surprise packages Japan are in a “group of death” with Australia, Kenya and France in Pool D.
New Zealand, who were ravaged by injury and lost Sonny Bill Williams early in their Rio journey, ended fifth in Brazil by beating Argentina, and they will take on England, Samoa and Russia in Pool C.
It will be interesting to see what kind of squad Powell is able to assemble for the new season, with everyone on a break at the moment. He won’t have 15-man Springboks Juan de Jongh and Francois Hougaard available as they are both Test incumbents at the moment, and are likely to be part of the November tour to Europe.
Star speedster Seabelo Senatla is still nursing the wrist injury that ruled him out in such dramatic fashion for the Olympic semi-final against Great Britain, but he has also indicated that he wants to pursue a career in 15-man rugby.
But Senatla signed another joint deal with SA Rugby and the WP Rugby Union, and is available to play for the Blitzboks, so the Dubai tournament could be his return to the rugby field before he joins up with the Stormers for next season’s Super Rugby campaign in January.
Other 15s players such as Cheslin Kolbe and Rayno Benjamin may also be called upon by Powell for the opening two events of the season.
The Dubai tournament will be followed by the Cape Town Sevens on December 10-11 at the Cape Town Stadium, and over 60 000 tickets have already been sold.
Dubai Sevens Draw
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Wales, Canada
Pool B: South Africa, USA, Scotland, Qualifier
Pool C: New Zealand, England, Samoa, Russia
Pool D: Australia, Kenya, France, Japan