The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has named a strong SA Sevens Academy squad to defend their Dubai International Invitational title next week in the desert capital.
Steven Hunt, Mark Richards, Tshotsho Mbovane and Ruwellyn Isbell form the core of a powerful group who will play in Dubai under the banner of the Samurai International selection.
The squad also includes Junior Springboks Shaun Adendorf and Kwagga Smith, while WJ Strydom has been part of the SA Sevens Academy and the Springboks Sevens’ wider training group for some time. The same group will also defend their George 7sPL title on the weekend of 14-15 December at Outeniqua Park.
Former Springbok Sevens stalwart Marius Schoeman will manage and coach the team in Dubai and George and he will hope to emulate their successful campaign of last year, when he and Neil Powell coached the Samurai to two memorable tournament titles.
Schoeman said the powerful squad can brace itself for stiff competition in Dubai. “I know the full international team of Tunisia will play, while Fiji and New Zealand always send strong squads containing fringe players of their national sides,” explains Schoeman.
He points to a number of current Springbok Sevens players who first got their international break while playing for the Academy in tournaments such as the Dubai invitational.
“Cornal Hendricks is a prime example. A few seasons ago he played in Dubai and a week later he was called up to the Springbok Sevens to play in PE. Last season he was a stalwart for them and finished the season as top-try scorer for the team.
“Other players who have made the step-up from the SA Academy team to the senior national Sevens team are Cheslin Kolbe, Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla and Werner Kok,” added Schoeman.
The SA Sevens Academy squad departs on Sunday at 18h00 from the Cape Town International Airport. They will be joined by the SA Women’s team at the annual festival of Sevens action in Dubai.
The SA Sevens Academy squad is:
1. Nardus van der Walt (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
2. Kwagga Smith (MTN Golden Lions)
3. Shaun Adendorf (Vodacom Blue Bulls)
4. Rosco Speckman (Steval Pumas)
5. Siviwe Soyizwapi (EP Kings)
6. WJ Strydom (SA Sevens Academy)
7. Mark Richards (SARU contracted)
8. Sandile Ngcobo (Valke)
9. Jacques Erasmus (Leopards)
10. Tshotsho Mbovane (SARU Contracted)
11. Ruwellyn Isbell (SARU Contracted)
12. Steven Hunt (SARU Contracted)