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‘New’ Blitzboks trio keen to have impact in Hamilton

The trio of newbies on the Blitzboks sevens team sheet for the HSBC NZ Sevens tournament which kicks off in Hamilton on Saturday (late Friday SA time) are determined to enjoy this experience as part of the Bok sevens squad and to contribute to the team’s effort.

Stormers’ Sikhumbuzo Notshe wants to make a solid contribution to the Blitzboks’ cause before he returns to the Stormers for their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign next week, and is confident he’ll return to Cape Town as a better player.

Notshe joined the sevens programme in October last year, was selected for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side that played in Dubai in December and got his Blitzbok call-up for the Australasian leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

The Wynberg Boys’ High product made his Blitzboks debut in Sydney last weekend, when he replaced injured Ruhan Nel, and is now keen to make the most of his remaining time with the squad in Hamilton.

‘There are a couple of areas where I feel that I improved in the last couple of months – my skills benefited, as did my work rate,’ said Notshe. ‘My one-on-one skills on defence and beating players on attack certainly benefited as well, as did my work at the breakdown – the guys spend a lot of time working on that area, on attack and defence.’

Notshe loved every minute of his time with the Blitzboks: ‘Playing 15s will always be the bigger picture for me, but my involvement with the Blitzboks in the last couple of months certainly whet my appetite.

‘There is a Commonwealth Games and a Rugby World Cup Sevens this year, but the biggest thing that will draw me back is the people that I worked with. There is a good culture going around here.’

Zain Davids, a former Rondebosch Boys High pupil (pictured above), made his Springbok Sevens debut in last year’s New Zealand tournament – played in Wellington – and hopes this appearance will have the same result, as the Blitzboks were crowned champions in 2017.

‘It’s another opportunity and one I want to use to the best of my ability,’ the 20-year-old said.

Davids, who was a member of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad that won the Sudamericarugby7s tournaments in Uruguay and Chile in January, feels the attention to detail looked at in that system improves him as a player.

‘They look at the small things, for example the weak shoulder tackle and how to improve on that or how to exploit that on attack,’ said Davids. ‘It is all about the development of a player and even the training sessions are at a high intensity, so that prepares one for the series as well.’

Muller du Plessis, who will be the back-up player for the tournament in the FMG Stadium, can’t hide his excitement: ‘I’m really pleased to be here. Growing up, one of my ambitions was to be involved with the Blitzboks, so this really is a dream come true.

‘I immediately phoned my family when I heard the news, as they have been supporting me all along. This is a massive opportunity for me to be involved at such an early stage of my career already. I can keen to learn from the senior guys all the time,’ the former Paarl Gymnasium pupil said.

Du Plessis, who also played for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in South America, endorsed this structure as the ideal stepping stone into the high intensity of the World Series: ‘The environment is pretty much the same as that of the Blitzboks and we often train with and against them, so it is the ideal way to adapt to the system. That is part of what I want to achieve this week, to get closer to the player I am expected to be.’

Picture of Davids scoring a try against Japan in Singapore last year courtesy of Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images