JOHANNESBURG – JC Pretorius was supposed to only fulfil the reserve function on the New Zealand-Australia leg of the current World Rugby Sevens Series, but BlitzBoks coach Neil Powell has decided to shake things up by including the 21-year-old in his squad for the Sydney Sevens that kicks off on Saturday.
The former SA Schools flanker has been brought into the squad at the expense of veteran former captain Kyle Brown and will play as a hooker over the next two days at the Spotless Stadium at Olympic Park.
Pretorius did not get a run in Hamilton last weekend, where the BlitzBoks finished a disappointing fourth, but will make his debut this weekend.
“It is all part of our plan to give the younger players more opportunities as we are expanding the depth and experience in our squad,” said Powell.
“Senior guys in the team, such as Kyle and Philip Snyman, will not be around forever and JC needs this opportunity to develop. This is a great opportunity for him. If we named him 13th player again and we had no injuries, it would have been an opportunity wasted to give him the exposure and experience of tournament play.”
Brown was due to move past Frankie Horne as South Africa’s most experienced Blitzbok ever, as both have played 68 times in the World Series.
“We realised that and it did make the selection a tough and unfortunate one, but we must do what is best for the team. Kyle could still get that chance as he is the official reserve and will be on the field if we pick up any injuries,” said Powell.
Debuts and potential records aside, the coach had his mind pretty much focussed on a better defensive effort from last weekend. Powell also wants more control from his team when in possession.
“We got our roles on defence mixed up and the one-on-one tackles were not good,” said Powell about the performance last week in Hamilton.
“To concede 13 tries on the second day was just not good enough. We have gone through tournaments where we did not even concede that much on both days combined.”
For Pretorius, who celebrated his 21st birthday in Sydney earlier in the week, it is a dream come true. He hails from the same school as Kwagga Smith (HTS Middelburg, Mpumalanga) and hopes to make a similar impact as his schoolboy hero did.
“We are from the same school, play in the same position and I was always trying to play the way he does by bringing a huge work rate to the game,” said Pretorius.
“I can never be Kwagga, only JC, but there is nothing wrong by trying to emulate him. I have always been a hard worker and I hope to bring that work rate and energy to the team this weekend.”
Blitzboks squad for the Sydney7s:
Chris Dry, Philip Snyman (capt), Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Werner Kok, JC Pretorius, Branco du Preez, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Dewald Human, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Stedman Gans
13th player: Kyle Brown
The Springboks pool-fixtures on Saturday, in SA time:
v Tonga (1.50am)
v Argentina (7.18am)
v Australia (11.23am)