Zain Davids and Kurt-Lee Arendse have been called up to the Springbok Sevens team to do duty in Vancouver, Canada this weekend as the Blitzboks start their preparations for round six of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Davids, who has played in 17 tournaments for the Blitzboks, will replace injured Ryan Oosthuizen in the forwards, while the uncapped Arendse joins the squad due to an injury to Mfundo Ndhlovu.
Muller du Plessis, who travelled to Las Vegas as the official reserve, replaced Ndhlovu before the final match at the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens tournament, where South Africa finished in a disappointing joint-seventh place.
Davids has been part of the Blitzboks’ back-to-back World Series wins in 2017 and 2018, but for Arendse the trip across the Atlantic will be a special one. The 22-year-old is part of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy and he excelled for the Academy in tournaments in Dubai and South America recently, where he displayed his attacking abilities. He also played for the University of the Western Cape in the opening round of the FNB Varsity Cup before being called into the wider Blitzboks squad.
On Sunday, the Blitzboks came close in their fifth-place semi-final defeat against Fiji, but could not deliver the knock-out punch. A slow start again forced the South Africans into catch-up rugby as Fiji scored in the opening minute to take a 7-0 lead. Ryan Oosthuizen pulled one back three minutes later to cut the lead to two points, but Impi Visser was yellow-carded for a high tackle and Fiji exploited the numbers for a 14-5 lead at the break.
The second half saw some determined defence by South Africa and with a strong contribution on attack from the bench. JC Pretorius scored with a blistering run and when Selvyn Davids converted, making it a two point game with three minutes left. It went to the last play as the Blitzboks searched for the winner, but it ended meters from the Fiji line where the South Africans were penalized while on attack.
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said the result was frustrating, but he did not fault the effort of the players.
“They gave it all out there and I am pleased with the effort,” said Powell.
“We made some errors on attack, but I told the guys before the match that we should finish it knowing we executed and gave our all. It was a bit frustrating that we could not quite get the first one right. Our decision making was lacking a bit in the final minutes.”
Powell said the experience gained by the youngsters such as Pretorius and Sako Makata will benefit the team: “The only way for them to become better is to play and learn and from that perspective, they got some good game time this weekend.”
Siviwe Soyizwapi said the squad will digest what when wrong and come back stronger for Vancouver.
“It was a very up and down weekend for us and we need to fix that,” said Soyizwapi.
“We managed to do a few good things, but errors again cost us. We need to fix that and make sure we stick to our processes. All is not lost and we can still bounce back.”
The sixth place resulted in England edging past South Africa on the World Series log.
The log position after five tournaments is:
1. USA 98
2. New Zealand 93
3. Fiji 84
4. England 68
5. South Africa 67
6. Australia 57
● The HSBC Canada Sevens will be played at BC Place on 9 and 10 March. The Blitzboks are drawn with the USA, Wales and Chile in Pool A, while Pool B consists of Samoa, Fiji, Kenya and Canada. New Zealand and Australia head up Pool C with Spain and France, while Pool D consists of Argentina, Scotland, Japan and England.
The Springbok Sevens squad for Vancouver is: Zain Davids, Philip Snyman, Impi Visser, Sako Makata, Werner Kok, JC Pretorius, Branco du Preez, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Stedman Gans, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Muller du Plessis, Kurt-Lee Arendse.