HOME-TOWN hero Cecil Afrika can provide the spark the Blitz Boks desperately need to end their frustrating wait for success on South African soil when the star- studded HSBC World Sevens Series circuit arrives in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Afrika, one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the World Sevens Series, is expected to pull the strings for the Blitz Boks as they attempt to win their first tournament on home soil since 2008.
The key role Afrika is expected to play has been recognised by Blitz Boks captain Kyle Brown, who praised Afrika ahead of the Port Elizabeth tournament, which is expected to attract 60000 fans over two days.
Missionvale-born Afrika was highly influential as South Africa progressed to the final in Dubai on Saturday before they were beaten 29-17 by Fiji.
“Cecil is finding momentum and the more game time he has the better he looks,” Brown said.
Afrika, with his trademark flowing dreadlocks, says he always enjoys playing in front of his home fans and is determined to send them home happy at the weekend. We are looking forward to the Port Elizabeth tournament and we want to come here and express ourselves,” Afrika said.
“The team want the fans to come out and support us and we want to make them feel proud.
“If people like their rugby fast and furious, they must go out and buy a ticket.”
He was the top try- and point-scorer for the 2010-11 Series when he scored 40 tries throughout the series with a total of 385 points.
In 2011 he won the IRB International Sevens Player of the Year award. Blitz Boks coach Neil Powell says his team view the PE leg as just another tournament even though they will enjoy the home crowd’s support.
“We ticked the box for consistency in Dubai, but we have not yet achieved our goal of winning a tournament,” Powell said.
Powell will have important decisions to make after key players picked up injuries in Dubai.
The exciting Stephan Dippenaar was ruled out with a hamstring injury in Dubai and his replacement will be named today.
Because of the injury situation, there could be a late call-up for EP Kings star Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi, who was picked for the SA Academy Sevens side last week. Dippenaar and Jamba Ulengo (foot injury) were ruled out of action on Saturday, while Frankie Horne sustained a leg injury in their 26-12 semifinal victory over England.
“We have players in mind but we will announce that on Tuesday morning,” Powell said.
“Stephan and Jamba flew back early to Cape Town, where they will both see specialists.”
Powell indicated there was a possibility Ulengo might still be able to play in Port Elizabeth.
Perhaps the only consolation taken from their defeat in Dubai was that it resulted in the Blitz Boks being grouped in Pool B alongside Kenya, Spain and Canada and so avoiding an early confrontation with any of the tournament’s heavyweights.
After their opening game against Canada at 1.10pm on Saturday, South Africa will also face Spain (4.18pm) and Kenya (7.58pm).
The other pools are: Pool A: Fiji, Scotland, Australia, France.
Pool C: New Zealand, Wales, Portugal, United States.
Pool D: England, Argentina, Samoa, Zimbabwe.