Blitzboks seek redemption in Dubai after a string of dismal performances

Blitzboks seek redemption in Dubai after a string of dismal performances
Ronald Brown of South Africa scores a try against Uruguay during the 2022 Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in Hong Kong, China, 4 November 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jerome Favre)

Hopefully, new head coach Sandile Ngcobo has stamped some authority to evoke a change in his side’s fortunes in Dubai this weekend.

The Springbok Sevens team’s tenure under the tutelage of new head coach Sandile Ngcobo and assistant Philip Snyman has got off to a shaky start. But the foundation of their start was already on unsteady ground. 

The Blitzboks started last season with gold medals around their necks in the first four World Sevens Series tournaments and were on track for a second consecutive World Series title. 

However, from that point on, the wheels started falling off and continue to crumble for the fleet-footed men. 

They failed to reach the podium in the next five tournaments and ultimately surrendered their healthy lead to Australia, who claimed the World Series title at the final leg in Los Angeles in August. 

Two weeks after the LA disappointment, the Bok Sevens placed seventh at the World Cup Sevens on home soil. 

These are unprecedented results for a South African side that has become synonymous with success. 

In between those previous dismays, there was a glimmer of hope when the side claimed the Commonwealth Games gold medal at the end of July. 

However, former head coach Neil Powell’s tenure still ended on shaky ground in the last few months with below-par performances and finishes. 

Mateo Vinals (C) of Uruguay in action against Selvyn Davids (L) of South Africa during the 2022 Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in Hong Kong, China, 4 November 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jerome Favre)

Changes needed 

At his unveiling to the media, the new head coach and former Springbok Sevens Academy coach, Sandile Ngcobo, expressed his desire to stick with the plans and processes implemented by his predecessor. 

“We’re not going to change much. We don’t need to stamp our authority when there is a system in place and a culture in place. As the game evolves, we’ll tweak a few things. There’s certain processes that we have and we’ll continue with that,” said Ngcobo. 

The Blitzboks consequently continued their treacherous run, stemming from last season, under the maiden voyage of Ngcobo in Hong Kong at the start of November, when they ventured into unprecedented territory once more, losing four out of the five matches they played. 

The Blitzboks had a three-week break from competition between the Hong Kong and Dubai legs — which takes place this weekend — and hopefully, Ngcobo has stamped some authority to evoke a change in his side’s fortunes. 

James Mc Cubbin (C) of Uruguay in action against JC Pretorius (L) of South Africa during the 2022 Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in Hong Kong, China, 4 November 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jerome Favre)

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Ngcobo has started the process by making wholesale changes to his squad for the Dubai leg, which include the selection of the uncapped duo of Masande Mtshali and Ricardo Duarttee, and welcoming back Zain Davids, Muller du Plessis as well as James Murphy from injury. 

Dalvon Blood, who made his debut at the France Sevens in Toulouse in May, is also included for his second tournament in Blitzbok colours. 

Davids, Du Plessis and Murphy missed the opening leg of the World Series in Hong Kong early this month, where Ronald Brown and Selvyn Davids picked up injuries that have ruled them out of the trip to Dubai. Mfundo Ndhlovu strained a calf muscle in training early in the week and was also ruled out of selection. 

The 19-year-old Mtshali represented Western Province in the SA Rugby Under-20 Cup on the wing earlier this year and has been training with the Blitzboks since, while Duarttee (24), a former Western Province Under-21 and Boland Cavaliers scrumhalf, was drafted from the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports Sevens Academy into the national set-up, following some impressive sessions with the senior side. 

“I was impressed by their potential when I worked with them in our Academy set-up and got them involved when I started with the Blitzboks,” said Ngcobo of the two uncapped players. 

“Both are exciting prospects and I know they will do us proud in Dubai. 

“It is great having Zain, James and Muller back from injury as they will be very keen to deliver good performances after missing out on the Hong Kong trip. They are proven World Series winners, so it is great to have them back and heavily involved in how we want to play in Dubai. 

“Dalvon did really well in his opening tournament early in the year and was in contention for the Hong Kong trip, but then picked up a niggle and could not be considered. He is fast and elusive and loves scoring tries, so we are also looking for some excitement from him coming into the squad.” 

Ngcobo said he was satisfied with the work done while training in Stellenbosch and was confident that the glitches that hampered their progress in Hong Kong, where they placed tied seventh, were fixed. 

“Look, this side is quite different from that one, but I know we prepared well,” he said. 

“Our pool is a tough one. Kenya is always a very physical African derby, Great Britain beat us in Hong Kong and Australia just continued with their great form to win their first title in Hong Kong. 

“We are getting back to our feet after being knocked down in Hong Kong, so will have to make sure we trust the system and stick to our processes in order to be successful,” said the coach. DM 

The Springbok Sevens squad for Dubai 

Ryan Oosthuizen – 33 tournaments, 165 points (33 tries)

Impi Visser – 22 tournaments, 125 points (25 tries)

Zain Davids – 33 tournaments, 160 points (32 tries)

James Murphy – 10 tournaments, 45 points (nine tries)

JC Pretorius – 21 tournaments, 225 points (45 tries)

Masande Mtshali – uncapped

Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain) – 41 tournaments, 680 points (136 tries)

Branco du Preez – 83 tournaments, 1,434 points (100 tries, 464 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)

Dewald Human – 19 tournaments, 213 points (17 tries, 64 conversions)

Shilton van Wyk – 5 tournaments, 35 points (seven tries)

Dalvon Blood – 1 tournament, 20 points (four tries)

Muller du Plessis – 20 tournaments, 315 points (63 tries)

Ricardo Duarttee – uncapped


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