Injuries send Blitzboks into crisis mode
A host of injuries are threatening to derail the Springbok Sevens’ surge to the HSBC World Sevens Series title, as coach Neil Powell desperately tries to patch together a team for the important Hong Kong Sevens in a fortnight’s time.
So bad has it become that only six of the 13 man squad that made it to the final in Vancouver this past weekend are fit and able to be selected for Hong Kong, and Powell will now need to dig deep into the extended squad to keep the team’s run alive.
Having played in six consecutive finals, winning four and with a healthy lead at the top of the World Series, the Blitzboks can probably afford to struggle through the next two tournaments, but the problems of not rotating the squad much in the tournament have caught up to the side badly with the current spate of injuries.
Already captain Kyle Brown has been ruled out of action for the season, and he was joined this week by playmaker Justin Geduld (ankle injury, 9 months) and Stephan Dippenaar (ankle, 3-6 months) on the permanent sidelines for the rest of the series.
Add to that the loss of Rosko Specman for the next two tournaments with a foot injury sustained in Vancouver, extended squad member Carel du Preez out with a back injury and doubtful injury assessments for Branco du Preez and Ruhan Nel and the Sevens team are in serious injury trouble at the moment.
Du Preez will know later Friday how bad it is while Nel is expected to be ruled out for 3-4 weeks, while another playmaker and former World Player of the year Cecil Afrika has a hamstring injury that will also see him miss Hong Kong and Singapore.
On the plus side, Tim Agaba has been cleared to train with the team at their Stellenbosch base this week and will be a likely starter in Hong Kong.
“We will have to dig deep to put out a good team in Hong Kong,” Powell told Supersport.com about the injuries, “There is a lot of hard work ahead of the hong Kong tournament and we will need to concentrate a lot on detail, especially if there are too be a number of new faces in the team to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
The Blitzboks will assemble again next Wednesday when the walking wounded will be counted and start preparations for the tournament form 7 to 9 April, followed by the Singapore Sevens a week later.
But compounding the problem is the draw the team received for Hong Kong, where they will face France, Kenya and Canada in Pool B, all three tricky assignments that they normally would handle well.
The problem comes that their cross-section for the Cup quarterfinals will be against either New Zealand or Fiji, with a tougher road to the final than they’ve had for the past few tournaments.
The Blitzboks should be able to capture the World Series title, however, if they make the Cup quarterfinals for the remaining four tournaments.