A South African U18 Sevens team will compete at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Isle of Man.
The squad consists of players who featured for their respective unions at Craven Week in Kimberley this year. The group gathered in Cape Town last week, where they had the opportunity to train with the Springbok Sevens team and head coach Paul Treu before leaving for Johannesburg on 2 September. Team South Africa then left for the Isle of Man on 4 September and arrived on Monday evening.
The SA U18s find themselves in Pool B, along with England, Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago. Pool A features Australia, Scotland, Canada and the Isle of Man. Head coach Vuyo Zangqa believes this team is strong enough to claim gold.
‘It’s been tough travelling over 30 hours from Johannesburg to the host town Douglas,’ says Zangqa. ‘But the boys have remained positive and had a good training session on Tuesday morning.
‘We have a strong squad and being a South African team, we will be seen as favourites. I believe these boys are talented enough to live up to their reputation. We will be well prepared when we go into our group games, with the openers against Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago. The big game will be the final pool fixture against England. A win against them will be important as it will give us a stronger chance of claiming gold.’
Team captain Dries Swanepoel says the team is positive they can do the country proud.
‘We’ve only had several days to train as a team, but things are falling into place,’ says Swanepoel, who also led the Free State U18 Craven Week side and is also the SA Schools vice-captain.
‘We headed straight into heavy rain upon our arrival and it’s been windy today, but we’re coping. The transition from 15s to sevens has been tough initially for all the boys. We still had a 15s mindset in the first few training sessions, but the coaching group helped us to see things with a sevens mindset. Having the opportunity to train with the Springbok Sevens squad was a great experience and they’ve become role models for us.
‘The team’s goal for the Commonwealth Youth games is a gold medal. There priorities that follow is to gain sevens experience, which help with out development, and maybe fight for a place in the squad as South Africa plans for the Olympics in 2016.’
South Africa will play their group games on 10 September while the play-offs are scheduled for 11 September.
Dries Swanepoel (Free State, captain) , Tyler Fisher (KZN), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (WP), Carel Swart (KZN), Jan Serfontein (Free State), Juan-Janco Gunter (Bulls), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Bulls), Cheslin Kolbe (WP), Adriaan Esterhuizen (Leopards), Sean Robinson (Bulls), Justin Geduld (WP), Burger Odendaal (Lions).
Vuyo Zangqa (head coach)
Allan Temple-Jones (conditioning coach)
Roelof Kotze (team manager)
By Gareth Duncan, from the Isle of Man