CAPE TOWN – It’s probably a good thing that Blitzboks coach Neil Powell decided to experiment with his team for the final leg of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series this weekend, because it seems he would have been forced to do so anyway.
On Monday, Cecil Afrika and Mfundo Ndhlovu were called up to replace injured Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stedman Gans for the 10th tournament at the Stade Jean-Bouin in France. Yesterday, the Springbok Sevens team were forced to call up Dewald Human in place of Selvyn Davids who withdrew for personal reasons.
For Afrika - the Blitzboks’ top points-scorer of all time - it will be a special week in the French capital. A year ago, he missed out on celebrating a second World Sevens Series title in France when his hamstring ripped off the bone in London at the penultimate event. It took him 12 months to re-join the set-up.
“It was hard for me at times,” Afrika admitted before departing from Cape Town. “The rehabilitation process was slow. At times, too slow, it felt. But I realised that I needed time and that it will take as long as it took for the tendons to heal and for me play pain-free again.”
The 30-year-old Afrika, who overcame a knee injury in 2013, is grateful for those who helped his recovery.
“Our medical staff did wonders - there were dark times, to be honest, but thanks to their encouragement and the positive words of loved ones and friends, I kept going,” said Afrika.
“I still have some dreams and goals to achieve in this game, with this team, so to be back means so much.”
When you are really desperate to get the interviews done but the groundsman, @wernerkok1 & @snymanphilip give @AfrikaCecil the giggles.@CastleFreeSA @FNBSA @ASICSRugby @ASICS_ZA pic.twitter.com/jQDW1oJjRW— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) May 28, 2019
The top four teams in the World Rugby Sevens Series were guaranteed an automatic passage to the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020, with South Africa, the US, Fiji and New Zealand qualifying.
The pools for Paris Sevens are:
Fiji, Ireland, Argentina, England
South Africa, Australia, Wales, Kenya
USA, Canada, Samoa, Spain
New Zealand, France, Scotland, Japan@WynonaLouw