Olympic bronze medallist Tim Agaba makes a welcome return to the Springbok Sevens team for the Hong Kong Sevens on 7-9 April, while Griffons fullback Selvyn Davids will make his debut for the Blitzboks.
Agaba, who played in eight tournaments in 2016 and also represented Team South Africa at the Olympic Games last year, has fully recovered from an ankle injury sustained during pre-season and will make a first appearance in the current series at the iconic event.
He is in for the injured Stephan Dippenaar in one of two changes to the side that played in the final of the Vancouver Sevens earlier this month.
Davids represented the SA Rugby Sevens Academy team in Dubai in December last year and has been part of the wider Blitzboks training group. He replaces Rosko Specman, who was not considered due to a hamstring injury.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell also named Ryan Oosthuizen as the reserve player to travel with the team to Hong Kong and Singapore. Should he be called upon, Oosthuizen will make his debut.
Powell said he was happy to have Agaba back and keen to see what Davids could bring to the team.
“Tim really performed well for us last year, so it is good to have him back. He has not played much, so it will be a big challenge for him, but he has shown in the past that he embraces those,” said Powell.
“Selvyn will have an important role to play, stepping into the shoes of Rosko, but he has worked hard and deserves this opportunity. He impressed me in Dubai when he played with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side, and I believe he will be a good addition to the team.”
Davids was invited to train with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy following a dazzling display at the SA Rugby Interprovincial Sevens tournament in Nelspruit in 2016 and some solid performances for the Griffons in the Currie Cup First Division.
He travelled to Dubai with the Academy side, where he was instrumental in the team reaching the final of the International Invitational tournament. A wicked stepper with good pace, Davids will fulfil the role of sweeper/scrumhalf in Hong Kong.
Powell was relieved that a number of senior players managed to shake off niggles and were available for selection to Hong Kong, a tournament South Africa have never won.
Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika, Chris Dry and Ruhan Nel all passed fitness tests and will leave with the team on Sunday.
“Our injury situation did not look good a couple of weeks ago coming back from Vancouver, but credit must be given to our medical and conditioning staff,” said Powell.
“We will never compromise on player welfare, but I am comfortable that all of them are fit and ready to go.”
The Blitzboks have played in all six finals of the current series, winning four, but Powell points out that it means nothing in relation to the seventh tournament in Hong Kong.
“It is a new tournament and we all start even. We have not won there, so it will be an added desire for the squad, but we will not look too far ahead. All our focus will be on that first match on Friday when we face France, a very dangerous opponent at any given time,” said Powell.
The Blitzboks will also face Kenya and Canada in Pool B.
The Springbok Sevens team for the Hong Kong Sevens is:
1. Chris Dry
2. Philip Snyman (captain)
3. Dylan Sage
4. Zain Davids
5. Werner Kok
6. Siviwe Soyizwapi
7. Branco du Preez
8. Tim Agaba
9. Selvyn Davids
10. Cecil Afrika
11. Stedman Gans
12. Ruhan Nel
13. Ryan Oosthuizen*
* Travelling reserve