Silver lining to Blitzboks' London disappointment as Ricky Duartee named Rookie of the Year

Ricardo Duarttee runs with the ball.

Ricardo Duarttee was named Sevens Rookie of the Year. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published May 22, 2023


Cape Town - There was a silver lining to the Blitzboks' ninth place finish at the London Sevens at Twickenham this weekend as newcomer Ricardo Duarttee was named the Sevens Rookie of the Year.

It capped a brilliant series for the 25-year-old who, since his debut in Dubai in December last year, has established himself as one of the Springbok Sevens' playmakers in a season where injuries to key players disrupted the team.

Duarttee played an important role in the Cup-winning tournament in Dubai while going on to represent South Africa in 52 matches this season, scoring 15 tries, 67 conversions, and one penalty for 212 points.

But Tricky Ricky, as the commentators dubbed him for his ability to twist, turn and side step through defenders, and his teammates could not secure an all-important place among the top four of the World Rugby Sevens Series for automatic 2024 Olympic Games qualification.

Now they have to go through Africa's regional qualifier to secure a spot. And even if they win here, it's not a certainty that they will make it to the Paris Games next year as the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) will have the final say in whether to include them as part of Team South Africa.

In London, the Blitzboks failed to win a single pool game but ended the tournament with two wins to finish inside the top 10. They lost to Great Britain and New Zealand and drew with the US on Saturday to miss out on the quarter-finals. But they beat Japan and the US on Sunday to end in the ninth spot.

On the overall series log, they ended seventh.

"We are not happy at all, because this is not how we wanted to finish the season," Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo said after the London tournament.

"We're very disappointed, but again, our actions will determine our character going forward and how badly we want to fix this and to play like we're Springbok Sevens players."

The Africa qualifier is scheduled for September 16 and 17 in Harare where South Africa will take on the likes of Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe to qualify for the Olympics.


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