The Blitzboks have suffered another serious injury setback with the confirmation that playmaker Justin Geduld will miss the Vancouver leg of the World Series with an ankle problem. Geduld suffered the injury during last weekend’s victory in Las Vegas – the Blitzboks’ fourth tournament win of the season after only five rounds.
They have amassed 107 log points and lead the 10-tournament series by 24 points over reigning World Series champions Fiji.
Sandile “Stix” Ngcobo has flown out to join the squad for round six in Canada, but he is no stranger to the set-up‚ having been part of the SA squad earlier this year.
SA are already playing without the injured Kyle Brown and Tim Agaba, while leading try-scorer Seabelo Senatla and experienced hooker Kwagga Smith are on Super Rugby duty.
Stedman Gans‚ who travelled to the US as back-up‚ replaced Geduld on the third day of the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens and will continue in this role for the Canada event. Ngcobo will take over the “Player 13” role from Gans.
The travelling reserve has been introduced into the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for 2016-17 as part of World Rugby’s player welfare initiatives and has proved its worth for the Blitzboks already in the season.
Ngcobo travelled with the squad earlier in the year as back-up for the Wellington tournament‚ but had to return home after a family bereavement.
Stephan Dippenaar‚ who replaced Ngcobo in Australasia‚ earned an opportunity when Werner Kok was injured.
Dippenaar scored a try in the final of the Sydney Sevens against England.
Gans also sat on the bench against the US and Fiji on the final day in Las Vegas‚ but did not take to the field.
“We have had our share of injuries already this year‚” coach Neil Powell said.
“We lost Tim Agaba and Carel du Preez in a pre-season tournament‚ then Kyle Brown in Cape Town and Cecil Afrika before travelling to Wellington and Sydney.
“Werner Kok could also not play on the second day in Australia and now Justin has had to return home.
“On top of that‚ Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith moved to the Super Rugby competition‚ so our depth has been tested‚ but on the plus side‚ every injury creates an opportunity for another player to show his worth.” Powell was pleased for Ngcobo. “Stix is a great squad member and although not always in the travelling group‚ he keeps on motivating the rest of the guys and training hard.
“You cannot win the World Series with only 12 players and we are fortunate to have players like him around as our back-up.”
The coach was excited for Gans‚ who could feature in pool play on Saturday when South Africa take on Chile‚ Kenya and England.
“We had a clear objective to blood the next generation of Blitzboks and Stedman falls into that category‚” Powell said of the 20-year-old, who also represented the Junior Springboks last year at the World Rugby Junior World Cup in England.
“He works hard‚ is willing to learn and presents something exciting for the future.”
The Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC Vancouver Sevens (with caps and points) is: 1. Chris Dry (57‚ 415) 2. Philip Snyman (captain‚ 42‚ 246) 3. Dylan Sage (12‚ 60) 4. Zain Davids (3‚ 0) 5. Werner Kok (24‚ 285) 6. Siviwe Soyizwapi (8‚ 65) 7. Branco du Preez (50‚ 976) 8. Stephan Dippenaar (31‚ 210) 9. Stedman Gans (1‚0) 10. Cecil Afrika (48‚ 1183) 11. Rosko Specman (18‚ 228) 12. Ruhan Nel (16‚ 155) 13. Sandile Ngcobo* (2‚ 10) *Reserve Player