Neil Powell has named a preliminary 17-man squad that will represent the Blitzboks at the Tokyo Olympic Games where they will vie for gold in the sevens competition.
The squad – announced on Thursday night – will be captained by Siviwe Soyizwapi. The other Olympic-bound members are Sakoyisa Makata, Dylan Sage, Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Angelo Davids, JC Pretorius, Branco du Preez, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stedman Gans.
The inclusion of Olympic bronze medallists Geduld and Sage mean they are the only survivors from the last Olympic Games held in Brazil five years ago.
Geduld has been a stalwart in the Springbok Sevens squad and reached the milestone of 50 World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments, while Sage has made a late charge to make the squad, returning from France, where he is plying his trade with Montauban.
The Blitzboks have been preparing extensively for the Tokyo showpiece, despite being deprived of international competition for most of the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Powell used the time well to fine-tune game plans and individual development, while a couple of players also had much-needed rehabilitation time following injuries.
Gans, Davids, Nel and Soyizwapi are all recovering from injuries and have been included in the wider squad with a bunch of regular Blitzboks, while Brown and Dobela are in line for an exciting first if they make the trip to Tokyo, and to make their international sevens debut in Japan.
The two most-capped Blitzboks of all time, Chris Dry and Branco du Preez, have been named in the squad as well. Du Preez missed out on selection in 2016 and his inclusion is a fine example of his determination. Dry travelled to Rio as the 14th player, but did not play.
“I am pleased with this group; they really deserve this chance to contest for the ultimate prize in sport,” said Powell.
“We are still five weeks away from our first match, so I have some time left to make the difficult decision to leave three guys behind, but they will be on stand-by in any case. Rugby is a funny game, though, especially with injuries and the uncertainties around Covid-19, so the door is never closed for anyone, even from outside this group.
“This has been a squad effort from the start but, in the end, only seven can play and every player understands that. We have prepared as best we could, and I know we will deliver a competitive effort.”
Powell will name the travelling squad of 14 (12 players and two reserve players) a week before they depart for Tokyo on 12 July.
The likes of Seabelo Senatla, Werner Kok and Rosko Specman are absent as they were unavailable for selection due to their commitments in fifteens.
Blitzboks squad – Sakoyisa Makata, Dylan Sage, Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Angelo Davids, JC Pretorius, Branco du Preez, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Siviwe Soyizwapi (c), Stedman Gans, Ronald Brown, Chris Dry, Ruhan Nel, Muller du Plessis, Lubabalo Dobela.