Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell swopped the roles of Mfundo Ndhlovu and JC Pretorius for this weekend’s Canada Sevens, with Ndhlovu promoted to a first appearance in the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Series, while Pretorius arrive at BC Place in Vancouver as the official reserve player.
Pretorius has been impressive in recent tournaments, winning Dream Team selections in both Sydney and Los Angeles, but Powell said the decision taken to rest the energetic forward was done with the best interest of the squad and the player at heart.
“JC has played in every tournament and has clocked the most minutes of everyone in the squad, so he will be managed a bit this weekend,” said Powell.
“As 13thplayer, you could end up playing in five matches or none, as it happened with Mfundo in Los Angeles. Just as much as JC needs a bit of a break, Mfundo needs some time out on the field having returned from injury, so the swap was actually an easy one to make. Mfundo has trained well and will be very keen to have a go.”
The switch will also see the role of Angelo Davids change from last weekend. Davids has started to double up as hooker when not playing on the wing and he will be more involved in the forwards in the Pool A clashes with Japan, Argentina and England on Saturday.
“We are busy grooming Angelo to become a utility player for us and he will get more game time at hooker for us at the tournament. Despite last weekend’s success, we need to start all over again in our approach and attitude in Vancouver,” said Powell, adding that the Blitzboks enjoy the sixth stop on the World Series.
“Vancouver is a happy place for us, having won here last year and personally, I love city and the people, so we are keen to get going.
“The challenges will be different from last week and it will be more of a mindset thing. You are always keen to improve when you did not perform well in a previous tournament. But if you won, like we did, the challenge becomes more mental.
“We need to remain humble after the win and work even harder during the week, and I hope the squad picked that up from us as management.”
Despite winning the tournament, Powell said the LA performance was not perfect: “Far from it, we can always cut out individual and team mistakes. We have closed the gap on the log with New Zealand, but this is a new week and a new tournament, so our effort must be fresh as well.”
According to Powell, the uncertainty surrounding big sporting events in the next couple of months due to the coronavirus outbreak makes it easier for them to focus on the Canadian tournament.
“We don’t know what is going to happen, so it makes no sense to worry about it,” he said.
“What we do know is that we need to put in our best effort this week and be ready to play at our very best this weekend. For that, we can prepare and that is where our focus will be.”
Springbok Sevens squad for the Canada Sevens:
1. Angelo Davids (five tournaments, 26 matches; 80 points, 163 tries)
2. Ryan Oosthuizen (20 tournaments, 101 matches; 100 points, 20 tries)
3. Chris Dry (73 tournaments, 367 matches; 485 points, 97 tries)
4. Sako Makata (eight tournaments, 30 matches; 15 points, three tries)
5. Werner Kok (50 tournaments, 255 matches; 540 points, 108 tries)
6. Mfundo Ndhlovu (four tournaments, 17 matches; 25 points, five tries))
7. Branco du Preez (74 tournaments, 374 matches; 1332 points, 96 tries, 423 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids (19 tournaments, 96 matches; 395 points, 40 tries, 96 conversions, 1 penalty)
9. Kurt-Lee Arendse (seven tournaments, 31 matches; 65 points, 13 tries)
10. Cecil Afrika (65 tournaments, 339 matches; 1452 points, 177 tries, 282 conversions, 1 penalty)
11. Muller du Plessis (13 tournaments, 57 matches; 185 points, 37 tries)
12. Stedman Gans (captain; 21 tournaments, 100 matches; 160 points, 32 tries)
13. JC Pretorius (10 tournaments, 54 matches, 120 points, 24 tries – official reserve
Blitzboks’ playing schedule (SA times):
Saturday 7 March:
20:06 v Japan
23:18 v Argentina
Sunday 8 March
02:30 v England
– SA Rugby