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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

‘Warrior’ Masande Mtshali brings height, speed to Blitzboks in Dubai, says coach Sandile Ngcobo

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Cape Town – The Blitzboks may be smarting from their disappointing Hong Kong Sevens performance last month, but will get an immediate chance to avenge an early defeat when they face Great Britain in their Dubai Sevens opener on Friday.

The Springbok Sevens side went down 12-10 to the British outfit in Hong Kong, and then lost 19-17 to France as well.

But while they still went through to the Cup quarter-finals, they were beaten 12-7 by Fiji – who lost the final to Australia.

To make matters worse, the Blitzboks were knocked out of the fifth-place race in the semi-final by Argentina, 19-12, which meant that they recorded just a lone victory in five matches – 21-0 over Uruguay.

New head coach Sandile Ngcobo, who replaced the long-serving Neil Powell – who is now the director of rugby at the Sharks – is confident that the changes made to the squad and more training time over the last few weeks will result in an improved performance in Dubai, where the South Africans are the defending champions.

There are two uncapped players in Masande Mtshali and Ricardo Duarttee in the group, but still lots of experience around in the shape of captain Siviwe Soyizwapi and other seniors such as Zain Davids, Branco du Preez and Ryan Oosthuizen.

The Blitzboks begin their Pool A campaign against Great Britain this morning at 9.34am, followed by Kenya (1.20pm) and Hong Kong champions Australia (6.33pm), and will be determined to turn things around ahead of next weekend’s Cape Town Sevens.

“The first thing we’d like to accomplish is executing the basics that we want to do. With basics done well, with the pace and versatility that this team possess, we are bound to achieve what we want in game one and in wanting to top our pool,” Ngcobo said from Dubai yesterday.

“It’s definitely been exciting – a lot of pace, a lot of youngsters. A good mixture between experience and youngsters, which is what we wanted to do.

“There was a lot of work done behind the scenes, in terms of our culture and where we want to go as a group. We also want to create some continuity.

“The base of the work would be the strength and conditioning of the boys, and Ghafoer Luckan – our S&C – did a phenomenal job to get the boys ready. From then on, we wanted to make sure whoever’s coming on board are on the same page.

“(The youngsters) fit the criteria of the positions and the ‘ammo’ that we are looking for. Masande Mtshali brings height, speed and he’s coachable. He’s a good person, and he’s a warrior.

“Ricky (Ricardo Duarttee) is very dynamic, very fast, extremely high work ethic. Very coachable, and pays attention to detail, and that’s the game-changer we are looking for.”

Blitzbok Pool A Fixtures

9.34am: Great Britain

1.20pm: Kenya

6.33pm: Australia

Blitzbok Squad

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 (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

@ashfakmohamed

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