Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo has selected uncapped duo Masande Mtshali and Ricardo Duarttee in his team’s 13-man squad for the Dubai Sevens tournament.
The 19-year-old Mtshali represented Western Province in the SA Rugby Under-20 Cup on the wing earlier this year and has been training with the Blitzboks since, while Duarttee (24), a former Western Province Under-21 and Boland Cavaliers scrumhalf, was drafted from the SAS Sevens Academy into the national set-up, following some impressive sessions with the senior side.
Apart from Mtshali and Duarttee, and there are also welcome returns for experienced trio Zain Davids, Muller du Plessis and James Murphy after lengthy injury breaks.
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Davids, Du Plessis and Murphy missed the Blitzboks opening leg of the World Series in Hong Kong early this month, where Ronald Brown and Selvyn Davids picked up injuries that have ruled them out of the trip to Dubai, while Mfundo Ndhlovu strained a calf muscle in training early in the week and was also ruled out of selection.
Dalvon Blood, who made his debut at the France Sevens in Toulouse in May, is also included for his second tournament in Blitzboks colours.
“I was impressed by their potential when I worked with them in our Academy set-up and got them involved when I started with the Blitzboks,” said the coach of the two uncapped players.
“Both are exciting prospects and I know they will do us proud in Dubai.
“It is great having Zain, James and Muller back from injury as they will be very keen to deliver good performances after missing out on the Hong Kong trip. They are proven World Series winners, so it is great to have them back and heavily involved in how we want to play in Dubai.
“Dalvon did really well in his opening tournament early in the year and was in contention for the Hong Kong trip, but then picked up a niggle and could not be considered. He is fast and elusive and love scoring tries, so we are also looking for some excitement from him coming into the squad.”
The Blitzboks coach was satisfied with the work done in Stellenbosch and was confident that the small glitches that hampered their progress in Hong Kong, where they placed tied seventh, are fixed.
“Look, this side is quite different from that one, but I know we prepared well,” the Blitzboks coach said.
“Our pool is a tough one. Kenya is always a very physical African derby, Great Britain beat us in Hong Kong and Australia just continued with their great form to won their first title in Hong Kong.
“We are getting back to our feet after being knocked down in Hong Kong, so will have to make sure we trust the system and stick to our processes in order to be successful.”
Squad for Dubai:
Ryan Oosthuizen – 33 tournaments, 165 points (33 tries)
Impi Visser – 22 tournaments, 125 points (25 tries)
Zain Davids – 33 tournaments, 160 points (32 tries)
James Murphy – 10 tournaments, 45 points (9 tries)
JC Pretorius – 21 tournaments, 225 points (45 tries)
Masande Mtshali – uncapped
Siviwe Soyizwapi (Blitzboks captain) – 41 tournaments, 680 points (136 tries)
Branco du Preez – 83 tournaments, 1434 points (100 tries, 464 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)
Dewald Human – 19 tournaments, 213 points (17 tries, 64 conversions)
Shilton van Wyk – 5 tournaments, 35 points (7 tries)
Dalvon Blood – 1 tournament, 20 points (4 tries)
Muller du Plessis – 20 tournaments, 315 points (63 tries)
Ricardo Duarttee – uncapped
Statistical summary ahead of Dubai Sevens:
The Blitzboks are the defending champions and won the last three tournaments played at The Sevens in Dubai.
Branco du Preez will extend the Blitzbok record for most tournaments by an individual player to 84.
Pool schedule for Dubai Sevens – Friday, 2 December
09h34 – Great Britain
13h20 – Kenya
18h33 – Australia
The Blitzboks squad for the Dubai Sevens. Image: SA Rugby.