DURBAN - The Blitzboks suffered an injury blow on the eve of the HSBC New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton when potential debutant Muller du Plessis was ruled out of the fourth round of the world series because of a hamstring problem.
Veteran Branco du Preez has been called up to join the SA squad, who are currently the pace-setters in the Sevens Series.
Du Preez, who has played in 57 tournaments for the Blitzboks and scored 1100 points, flew out of South Africa on Thursday and will be included in the line-up for this weekend’s event in Hamilton, the home of the Chiefs and the main city of the Waikato region.
Du Preez was originally ruled out of the Australasian trip (last week the tournament was held in Sydney where the Boks were runners-up) due to a hamstring injury, but has now fully recovered.
The unfortunate Du Plessis only joined the squad on Tuesday evening as a replacement for Ruhan Nel, but yet another hamstring strain, picked up during the defence session, ruled him out as well. The squad also lost captain Philip Snyman in Sydney due to (you guessed it) a hamstring injury, with Kyle Brown taking over the captaincy this week.
In further bad news, Kwagga Smith had some discomfort after rolling his ankle in training earlier in the week and a final call on his participation will be made Friday.
Coach Neil Powell said a lot of work has gone into this weekend’s tournament, although not all of it on the field: “As the guys were sore and stiff early in the week, we concentrated on a lot of discussion and analysis on what happened in Sydney.
“I am happy with the work done and the field sessions were also productive. Unfortunately, we lost Muller to injury but he will stay with us to get a good look at the way we operate during tournaments and how we prepare. It will be a good experience for him, although he will not be able to play.”
Powell stated the importance of a good performance this weekend: “The senior players will have to make another step-up, given the misfortunes we had this week. We are happy with our log position (leading the series) as this is some indication that we are doing things right, but we always strive for improvement, so this weekend will be another opportunity to do so.”
Tim Agaba, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Kyle Brown (capt), Branco du Preez, Stedman Gans, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla, Werner Kok, Kwagga Smith.
SA schedule on Saturday (SA times):
1.06am: v Papua New Guinea
4.32am: v Russia
8.06am: v England