Blitzboks call up uncapped duo for HSBC Canada Sevens
As the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series teams prepare for their second tournament in as many weeks, we bring you all the latest squad news.
South Africa’s growing injury list has presented two players with an opportunity to make their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debuts in Vancouver this weekend.
Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo has called up Gurshwin Wehr and Noegh Hayward for the HSBC Canada Sevens having had players sidelined during a disappointing tournament in Los Angeles.
Defeats to Uruguay, Ireland, Fiji and Samoa at Dignity Health Sports Park were compounded by the loss of Jaiden Barron and Masande Mtshali to concussion and debutant Travis Ismaiel to a hamstring injury.
Once in Vancouver, Hayward will link up with his former Stellenbosch Academy of Sport room-mate, Ricardo Duarttee, who is his country’s leading points scorer in his first Series campaign with 114 in 28 matches.
“We started at the SAS Academy together and I was really happy for him when he got the call-up,” Hayward said.
“Now it’s my turn to get the call-up and I am sure he will be just as happy for me as we worked really hard last year and motivated each other.”
Despite exiting the HSBC Los Angeles Sevens in the Cup quarter-finals, South Africa remain well in the hunt for both the 2023 Series title and automatic qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The Blitzboks are level on points with second-placed Argentina in the men’s standings, 21 points adrift of current leaders, New Zealand.
The All Blacks Sevens are unchanged as they attempt to win a third successive tournament, following victories in Sydney and Los Angeles.
Argentina, meanwhile, have added Franco Rossetto and Tomas Elizalde to their squad as they try to go one better than at Dignity Health Sports Park, where they lost 22-12 to New Zealand in the Cup final.
Defending champions Australia currently sit sixth in the standings, seven points outside the Olympic qualification places having rallied from losing twice on day one to finish fourth in Los Angeles.
Coach John Manenti has made one change ahead of Vancouver as his side chase valuable points, bringing in Series debutant Jordan Williams as James Turner continues to deal with a calf problem.
“Through adversity comes growth, and that’s exactly what the group experienced in LA,” Australia captain Stu Dunbar said.
“It was pleasing to see the newer boys take the opportunities they were given and show some real improvement.
“After some time well spent at In-N-Out Burger, the challenge now is to use these learnings from the weekend and put them into practice in Vancouver.”
USA and Ireland begin the HSBC Canada Sevens 15 and 16 points adrift of Olympic qualifications respectively, and in need of a good performance.
Men’s Eagles Sevens coach Mike Friday has called up Cody Melphy to replace Joe Schroeder, who was injured as the USA finished 13th on home soil.
“We are obviously very disappointed with our performance in LA and accept that we underperformed and are better than that,” Friday said this week.
“We accept we are in a hole now, but this Vancouver pool is a potential pool of redemption as we try and fight our way back into the automatic Olympic qualification conversation.
“We realise we have allowed ourselves to become 10 points adrift, but that is still a more than manageable target to catch, but we are under no illusions of the task that lies ahead this weekend and beyond to achieve that goal.”
At the other end of the standings, Japan are now 11 points from potential safety and have made three changes as they attempt to change their fortunes in Vancouver.
Moeki Fukushi, Yu Okudaira and Taiga Ishida have been called up to replace Ren Miyagami, Taiyo Sugino and Soji Iwamoto.