ONE Port Elizabeth-born player has made way for another as the Blitz Boks prepare to mount a sustained challenge for the prized Hong Kong Sevens title this weekend.
Playmaker Cecil Afrika, who first learnt to play rugby at Missionvale Primary, will replace former Grey High pupil Steven Hunt in a move designed to bolster the Blitz Boks for one of the glamour tournaments on the world sevens series circuit.
The addition of Afrika will strengthen the Blitz Boks in the crucial positions of flyhalf and sweeper as they go in search of a victory at the famous Hong Kong Sevens for the first time.
On Sunday, Fiji scored a try in the dying seconds of a dramatic Tokyo Sevens Cup final to snatch the tournament title away from the Boks.
Thanks to their impressive form and consistent performances, however, the South Africans managed to regain the overall lead on the World Series standings.
With just three rounds to go, including this weekend’s much anticipated showdown, the Blitz Boks (116 points) lead New Zealand by just two points, with Tokyo winners Fiji trailing in third place.
South Africa have now reached five World Series Cup finals this season and their two Cup titles – in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas – mean they have won the same number of tournaments as rivals New Zealand and Fiji in the 2013-2014 season.
Kyle Brown and his squad finished fourth at the season-opening Gold Coast Sevens in Australia.
Neil Powell, the Bok sevens coach, described the inclusion of fit-again Afrika as fantastic news for his team.
“It’s great to have Cecil back because he was in very good form before his injury. It is unfortunate that Steven Hunt has to make way, but Cecil is a very important player for us. He will assist Branco du Preez and Justin Geduld in the key positions of playmaker and sweeper, which are important attacking positions,” Powell said.
His team came through unscathed despite a bruising cup final against the very physical Fijians in Tokyo, Powell said. “I am relieved that apart from a few bruises and small niggles, the guys all came through with no injury worries.”
Meanwhile, the Blitz Boks were drawn with Australia, France and Spain in Pool B of the Hong Kong Sevens. They will face France on Friday at the Hong Kong Football Stadium followed by Spain and Australia on Saturday.
The Springbok Sevens squad: Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Frankie Horne, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Kyle Brown, Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Jamba Ulengo, Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla.
The Hong Kong Sevens pool draw:
Pool A: Fiji, Kenya, Wales, Sri Lanka.
Pool B: South Africa, Australia, France, Spain.
Pool C: England, Canada, Argentina, Portugal.
Pool D: New Zealand, USA, Scotland, Samoa. – George Byron