The most capped Blitzbok ever, Branco du Preez, has been included in the 13-man Springbok Sevens squad for the next two HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in France and England, in one of four changes to the team that returned from a fifth-place finish in Canada last month.
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Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell recalled Du Preez after the playmaker recovered from a shoulder injury he picked up at the World Series event in Seville, Spain in January, which the Blitzboks won.
Du Preez, who will appear in his 80th World Series tournament, has played in 400 matches and amassed 1 409 career points, second only to Cecil Afrika (1 462).
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Try-scoring outside back, Muller du Plessis, who last played on the circuit in December 2021, will also return following his successful rehabilitation after he broke his leg in the first of the two Dubai tournaments that kicked off the current season.
The Blitzboks lead the standings with 3 rounds to play
South Africa have won four of the six tournaments played so far and are leading the World Series with three tournaments remaining.
Powell also called on Tiaan Pretorius, who made his debut in Dubai in 2021, with the 21-year-old coming into the forwards to provide cover for the injured duo of Sakoyisa Makata and Christie Grobbelaar, both of whom returned injured from the last leg, consisting of tournaments in Singapore and Vancouver.
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Mfundo Ndhlovu has recovered from the head knock sustained in Singapore and will travel to Toulouse, a new hosting venue for the HSBC France Sevens.
Powell was pleased to have two of his three-time World Series winners back.
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“We got experience back with the inclusion of Branco and Muller, who were both regular starters before their injuries, so they will add to our depth in the backs,” said Powell.
“We have two forwards out in Sako and Christie, so Tiaan will get another opportunity. I am hoping for a similar effort from him than the last time he played in Dubai.
“Mfundo was unfortunate to be ruled out early in Singapore following HIA protocols and has slotted in very well upon his return to training.”
Du Preez said he can’t wait to get back on the field: “There is still so much to play for this season, and we need strong performances on this trip to make sure we do justice to the good start we had. We need to bounce back from the last two performances, and I am determined to contribute to that effort.”
Du Plessis said the frustration of missing out following his injury was eased by the performances of the team in his absence.
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“We are in a good position to retain the World Series title, but that was a long-term goal. For now, we just want to get back onto the field and deliver performances that we and the country can be proud of,” Du Plessis said.
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Blitzboks squad for France Sevens in Toulouse:
James Murphy – 7 tournaments, 26 matches, 20 points (4 tries)
Ryan Oosthuizen – 29 tournaments, 138 matches, 150 points (30 tries)
Impi Visser – 19 tournaments, 96 matches, 95 points (19 tries)
Zain Davids – 30 tournaments, 151 matches, 145 points (29 tries)
Tiaan Pretorius – 2 tournaments, 7 matches, 5 points (1 try)
JC Pretorius – 18 tournaments, 96 matches, 210 points (42 tries)
Branco du Preez – 79 tournaments, 400 matches, 1 409 points (99 tries, 454 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)
Selvyn Davids – 27 tournaments, 141 matches, 564 points (69 tries, 108 conversions, 1 penalty goal)
Ronald Brown – 6 tournaments, 35 matches, 232 points (22 tries, 61 conversions)
Dewald Human – 15 tournaments, 66 matches, 195 points (15 tries, 60 conversions)
Siviwe Soyizwapi – 37 tournaments, 193 matches, 625 points (125 tries)
Muller du Plessis – 16 tournaments, 78 matches, 285 points (57 tries)
Mfundo Ndhlovu – 8 tournaments, 37 matches, 40 points (8 tries)