CAPE TOWN – The New Zealand Sevens weekend will take place on January 26 and 27 in the FMG Stadium in Waikato, while the Sydney tournament is scheduled for February 2 and 3 at the Spotless Stadium.
After securing a third-place finish in Cape Town last month after a disappointing sixth-spot end in the Dubai opener, the back-to-back Series champions will look to get their campaign properly on track in New Zealand.
There will be quite a few changes to the Blitzboks squad that did duty in December.
Chris Dry will be back in the Blitzboks mix for the first time since sustaining an injury in Cape Town in December 2017. He will take over from Ryan Oosthuizen for his 65th tournament appearance in Austra¬lasia.
Among the backs, Stedman Gans, who last played in London in June last year, will replace the injured Muller du Plessis while Selvyn Davids, the 13th player in Cape Town, comes into the match-day squad for Rosko Specman - the latest Sevens man to switch over to the 15-man game (Bulls).
Philip Snyman will again lead the side after missing the second day of action in Cape Town with a shoulder niggle, while Justin Geduld and Werner Kok, who underwent minor surgeries for knee and facial injuries respectively, are also ready for the Australasia challenge.
Mfundo Ndhlovu and Cecil Afrika were not considered due to injury.
“It was a challenging camp in terms of managing players, because we picked up quite a few injuries in Cape Town,” Powell said. “Philip with his chest, Justin’s knee and Werner has a cheek fracture. So we had to manage those guys, and they couldn’t take contact until this week.”
After losing a large number of playing personnel to fifteens last season, the Blitzboks brought in a number of youngsters from the academy.
And while the natural, to-be-expected issues that accompany such a transition did arise during the first two events in terms of cohesion and more tactical areas like their defensive system, Powell is confident that there has been improvement.
“I am happy with how the guys have come through this week. There are a lot of good things that have happened this week, and you can see the growth in the individuals, especially the young and inexperienced players.
“Obviously, we are just looking to get consistency in selection. A guy like Impi (Visser), who played his first two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town, is getting another opportunity to play.
“It’s a tournament we always struggled with in the past. If you travel over 11 time zones, I think it’s always going to be a challenge.”
“We call it the ‘no excuses’ tournament. The fact that you might struggle to sleep or whatever else shouldn’t be used as an excuse for you not to perform, whether it’s on the training pitch or the playing pitch.”
The Blitzboks squad is:
Chris Dry, Philip Snyman (captain), Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Werner Kok, Kyle Brown, Branco du Preez, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Dewald Human, Siviwe Soyizwapi , Stedman Gans. Reserve: JC Pretorius.@Wynona_Louw