South Africa Sevens forced into three changes for home tournament in Port Elizabeth on the HSBC World Sevens Series

December 5, 2013 8:49 AM

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AN INJURY crisis has forced Blitz Boks Head Coach Neil Powell to send an urgent SOS to three players to join his squad ahead of the Port Elizabeth leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series this weekend.

Among the players called up is former Grey High pupil Steven Hunt (South Africa Rugby contracted player), who missed out on selection for the Dubai leg of the World Series where the Blitz Boks were beaten 29-17 by Fiji.

The other last-minute call-ups are Pumas wing Rosco Speckman and Lions flanker Kwagga Smith, who will both add fresh impetus to the team.

Powell was forced to make the changes after the exciting Stephan Dippenaar was ruled out with a hamstring injury in Dubai. There are also major doubts about whether Jamba Ulengo (foot injury) will be fit to take his place in the team.

‘‘We are bringing in Hunt, Smith and Speckman but only two of the three will make the 12-man team when we make our final selection on Thursday. We will now work with the additional players until Thursday," Powell said.

‘‘Fortunately, all three players were in our second team (the South Africa Academy side) which played in Dubai at the weekend. So the guys all have game time behind them," Powell said.

‘‘Steven is a local boy so it will be special for him to be part of the team and the system going into the weekend. It is always great to play in front of your home fans.

"But we must make it happen, because it won’t just happen because you are playing at home. The team must go out and play like they did in Dubai and make the country proud of us.

‘‘We want to keep the momentum that we had in Dubai going and carry on from there. We have a tough pool in Kenya, Canada and Spain and we have goals of topping our pool, maintaining consistency and hopefully winning a tournament. We will tick boxes as we go along."

‘‘We approach every game as a potential danger. In the past teams like Spain, Russia and Zimbabwe have surprised on the day so you have to play your best in every game.

"The Blitz Boks will be focused in each game and specially in our first match against Canada, and hopefully we can get past that and look ahead to Spain and Kenya.

‘‘In Dubai, we saw how the new guys gelled with Cheslin Kolbe coming in and doing well. Some of the guys did not train or play with us a lot and it was nice to see how they fitted in with the squad.

‘‘Another new face was Werner Kok and it was also good having Branco du Preez returning from injury and getting back into good form immediately."

The BlitzBokke coach does not feel that playing at home will add extra pressure to the occasion for his team.

"To be honest, we go into every tournament trying to win," Powell said. "One may think there is pressure because it is a home tournament but we approach it just like any other tournament where we need to perform and win. I do not like to talk about winning tournaments but hopefully we can go out and make SA proud."

After their opening game against Canada at 1.10pm on Saturday, SA face Spain (4.18pm) and Kenya (7.58pm) as they bid to reach the quarterfinals.


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