NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – Returning to the tournament that propelled him to greater heights of rugby sevens, South Africa’s top fly-half Cecil Afrika is eager to roll back the memories when he leads the experienced Blitzbokke side at this weekend’s Safari Sevens to be hosted at RFUEA Ground.
The squad of 14, a blend of young and experienced players led by skipper Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi arrived in Nairobi on Friday morning full of positive expectations.
The tournament will be a vital step for the Boks to give experience to the new players as well as gain fitness ahead of the 2019/20 World Sevens Series which kicks off in December.
Afrika will not be new to Kenyan surroundings as he will be in the country for the third time and makes his maiden appearance at the tournament for the first time in 12 years.
He was part of the Emerging Boks squad that played at the 2007 Safari Sevens. He reckons the tournament is a top-class rugby event and has challenged his compatriots not to underrate any team.
“I’ve been here (in Kenya) twice in 2006 and 2007 representing the Emerging Boks, so coming back to where it all started is a pretty good thing for me,” Afrika who has faced Kenya’s Shujaa several times at the World Series told Capital Sport.
“We are giving new players a chance to get experience and get the exposure because it’s an Olympic year so that by the time we retire they can carry on. We are focused and will embrace teamwork, do what we have worked on in training and take a team at a time,”
“The tournament will help us find our mistakes to work on before we start the World Sevens Series. It will be a tough tournament but we are looking forward to winning.” added the experienced fly half.
South Africa have split their team into two with one led by head coach Neil Powell headed to Manchester on Monday for a pre-season tournament while the second led by assistant coach Renfred Dazel will be in Nairobi for the Safari Sevens.
“We are planning for the future, so we have two split squad into two. Because it’s an Olympic year we have to plan wisely, we don’t want all the players to play in all rounds,” Dazel told Capital Sport.
The tactician added; “It’s the first time in a long time that we are having two tournaments before the Dubai Sevens. This is good preparation for us and a platform for the new guys to prove themselves before the season starts.”
The South Africans who finished fourth in the just concluded World Sevens Series are in a tricky Pool A where they will take on Kenya’s second-string side the Morans, Uganda and Burundi.
Captain Soyizwapi, unlike Afrika, will be playing in an African tournament outside his home country for the first time ever.
“It will be a good opportunity for us especially before the World Series starts to prepare and gauge the fitness of players. Individually it will also be an opportunity to see how we much we have grown from pre-season. It’s a good tournament with great competition,” Soyizwapi stated.
“We expect a physical game. Every time we play Kenya is never a rival but a battle, so we are looking forward to that especially in the area they like focusing on, the break down. The group is really competitive, and we will look at implementing rugby practice and see where we are,” the skipper underscored.
The South African team is based at the dusitD2 Hotel and was hosted to a breakfast treat by General Manager Michael Metaxas.