Springboks Francois Hougaard and Juan de Jongh were named in a strong 12-man Springbok Sevens squad for the first two HSBC World Sevens Series tournaments of the new season in Dubai and Cape Town.
The season kicks off on 4 and 5 December with the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, which is followed a week later by the inaugural Cape Town Sevens, on 12 and 13 December, at the Cape Town Stadium.
Hougaard has played in 35 Tests for the Springboks and recently joined the Sevens squad on a one-year contract. He is set to make his World Series debut in Dubai, while Western Province centre and skipper, De Jongh (14 Tests), return to the Springbok Sevens fold for the first time since making his first and only appearance for the side in Wellington in 2008.
Werner Kok, the newly-crowned World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Cheslin Kolbe (Western Province) and last season’s top-try scorer on the World Series circuit, Seabelo Senatla, will combine with regular stalwarts Cecil Afrika, Justin Geduld and Ryno Benjamin (Free State Cheetahs) to form a potent Blitzbok backline attack.
The tough-tackling Benjamin is set to make his 30th World Series appearance while skipper Kyle Brown is on course to play in his landmark 50th tournament in his hometown of Cape Town.
The durable Brown, Philip Snyman, Kwagga Smith and Chris Dry will provide the necessary steel upfront and complete a strong selection who will defend their crown in Dubai. The Springbok Sevens are also the current tournament champions in South Africa.
That forward line-up means there is unfortunately no place for veteran Frankie Horne, who will instead run out for the SARU Sevens Academy side in the Dubai International tournament. The omission of Horne brings to and end an incredible run of 68 consecutive World Series tournaments.
Players not considered because of injury are Branco du Preez (shoulder), Warren Whiteley (calf) and Oupa Mohoje (knee, out for eight weeks).
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell said it was an extremely tough task to reduce the large training group to just 12 players for the first two tournaments of the season.
“The entire training group worked very hard and the competiveness amongst the group of players made this my toughest selection job yet,” he admitted.
"This is the most important Sevens season ever, with the bigger World Series set to be even tougher than last season. I think teams would want to position themselves for the 2016 Olympic Games, meaning there will be little room for error.”
Commenting on the omission of Horne, Powell said: “Frankie has been an unbelievable servant for South African Sevens rugby and I am sure he will bounce back even stronger.”
South Africa are grouped in Pool B alongside Scotland, Samoa and newly-promoted core team Russia. The squad travel to Dubai on Sunday, 29 November and departure time from the Cape Town International Airport is 13h30.
Springbok Sevens squad:
Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Francois Hougaard, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Kyle Brown (c), Cheslin Kolbe, Ryno Benjamin, Justin Geduld , Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla, Juan de Jongh.