Stormers star Juan de Jongh and ex-Bulls favourite Francois Hougaard will give the Springbok Sevens a new dimension for the World Rugby Sevens Series.
De Jongh and Hougaard were among the new faces in the 12-man Blitzbok squad announced on Wednesday.
The new Sevens season kicks off in Dubai on December 4-5 and continues at a sold-out Cape Town Stadium a week later (December 12-13).
With South Africa wanting to increase their chances of claiming a gold medal at the Rio Olympics in August, Blitzboks coach Neil Powell has spread his net wider to include a number of 15s specialists such as Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Damian de Allende, De Jongh and Hougaard.
While Habana and De Allende are still playing for clubs in France and Japan at the moment, Mvovo hasn’t been picked for the first two legs ostensibly as he was part of the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad and may need a bit of a longer break before featuring for the Sharks in Super Rugby next year.
Powell has indicated that the new players in the squad will get opportunities at different stages of the season.
Among the regular Sevens exponents in the squad are exciting Stormers duo Cheslin Kolbe and Seabelo Senatla, another Cape youngster in Justin Geduld and World Sevens Player of the Year Werner Kok.
Two of those 15-man Springboks weren’t considered due to injury – Oupa Mohoje (knee, eight weeks) and Warren Whiteley (calf) – while Sevens stalwart Branco du Preez also misses the first two legs due to a long-term shoulder injury.
Veteran Frankie Horne didn’t make the cut either after playing in 68 consecutive World Series tournaments. “Frankie has been an unbelievable servant for South African Sevens rugby and I am sure he will bounce back even stronger (he will feature for the Saru Sevens Academy side in a Dubai international tournament),” Powell said.
“The entire training group worked very hard and the competiveness amongst the group of players made this my toughest selection job yet.
“I am confident that the squad we are taking to Dubai and Cape Town will give a good account of themselves. This is the most important Sevens season ever, with the bigger World Series set to be even tougher than last season. I think teams would want to position themselves for the 2016 Olympic Games, which means that there will be little room for error.”
Captain Kyle Brown is set to play in his 50th World Series tournament on home soil in Cape Town.
The Blitzboks will face Scotland, Samoa and Russia in Pool B in Dubai and leave for the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.
Springbok Sevens squad
Juan de Jongh, Francois Hougaard, Cecil Afrika, Rayno Benjamin, Kyle Brown (captain), Chris Dry, Justin Geduld, Werner Kok, Cheslin Kolbe, Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Philip Snyman.