Afrika to lead Sevens charge

IRB and SA Sevens Player of the Year Cecil Afrika has been included in a Springbok Sevens side that sees two changes for the weekend’s tournament in Port Elizabeth.

Hometown boy Afrika replaces Renfred Dazel while Boland speedster Cornal Hendricks comes in for Robert Ebersohn.

Afrika returns to action after recovering from a rib injury he picked up against Japan at the season opening Gold Coast Sevens in Brisbane. He missed the Dubai Sevens last weekend, where the Blitzboks lost 17-14 in the Plate final against Australia, but has passed a fitness test on Wednesday to gain clearance for the South African World Series leg on Friday.

Head coach Paul Treu hoped to have Ebersohn available for the PE tournament, but the Cheetahs centre has returned to Bloemfontein for Super Rugby preparations. This gives Hendricks the opportunity to make his professional debut after an impressive season in the Currie Cup First Division.

‘It’s great to have Cecil back. He’ll be a big boost,’ Treu told keo.co.za. ‘But he is coming back from injury, so we can’t expect him to win us matches like the way he did last season. He’ll be our playmaker, but it will take a team effort to achieve success this weekend.

‘It’s also nice for Cornal to have a chance to show what he has to offer. He had an excellent season with Boland and I’m sure he can continue his good form.’

With the season scheduling an extra consecutive tournament (it has always been two opening legs in previous campaigns), the IRB have allowed teams to name a 13th man. This reserve player can only be selected if a team-mate is sidelined with injury. Former SA Schools captain William Small-Smith will fill that role for the Blitzboks.

Meanwhile, South Africa captain Kyle Brown said the team would make the most out of this home leg of the series.

‘You only play once at home in nine tournaments so the guys are quite excited to run out in front of our own supporters,’ he said. ‘We did not play to our full potential in either of the previous two tournaments and will be looking to rectify the small mistakes and play to the standards that we have set for ourselves.’

Springbok Sevens team – Chris Dry, Boom Prinsloo, Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown (c), Chase Minnaar, Cornal Hendricks, Branco du Preez, Mark Richards, Cecil Afrika, Steven Hunt, Paul Delport, Bernado Botha. 13th man: William Small-Smith

By Gareth Duncan, in Port Elizabeth