Former Bulls centre Stephan Dippenaar is set to make his Springbok Sevens debut in New Zealand after he was included in the squad of 14 players for the next two legs of the Sevens World Series, in Wellington and Las Vegas.
Dippenaar was named at a media conference at the team's new, state-of-the-art headquarters at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Tuesday. The innovative facility was identified by SARU as supporting the strategy of placing the Sevens team at the cutting edge of the sport’s development.
The World Series resumes on 3 and 4 February in the New Zealand capital after a new-look opening leg of three tournaments towards the end of 2011 in Australia, Dubai and South Africa respectively. Following the stopover in Wellington, which is regarded as one of the most popular Series destinations, the Blitzbokke will then defend their USA title in Las Vegas from 10 to 12 February.
Dippenaar signed a two year contract last year with the Springbok Sevens team and he will now get his chance to show his worth after he was included in the travelling party in the place of William Small-Smith, who is currently involved with the SA Under-20 training squad.
The former Bulls player was a member of the newly-established SA Sevens Academy team that played in Uruguay last month, where he helped them to reach the final in Punta del Este.
Last year, skipper Kyle Brown's team won their first tournament of the season in Las Vegas. That victory kick-started a good run of form for the team, who went on to lift two more titles in Scotland and England and to eventually claim second place overall behind series winners New Zealand.
South Africa are currently placed third on the Series log - three points behind joint leaders Fiji and New Zealand, who have 51 points each, while just one point separates South Africa and England in the standings after three tournaments.
Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu, whose team lost their home tournament in heart-breaking fashion against the Kiwis in Port Elizabeth last December, said his team will be striving to maintain their consistency during the next two tournaments.
"The new points system on offer as well as the additional ninth tournament really brought another dimension to the Series," he said. "There are no more easy pool matches because the teams want to secure a good seeding position for the next tournament, so we can expect two more very competitive tournaments in Wellington and Las Vegas."
The Blitzbokke coach said he was keen to see how newcomer Dippenaar performs in Bok Sevens colours.
"He has learnt a lot since his switch to Sevens last year and I would like to see how he handles the much tougher demands of the very competitive Series," he said.
According to Treu, his team has put the huge disappointment of losing their home Cup Final behind them and they are looking forward to resume the Series.
"Our previous Cup success in Wellington was ten years ago, so that will be a huge motivating factor for us. The New Zealand leg is always tough because of the great support for the Pacific Island teams, but we will embrace the challenge and hope to improve on our most recent performances in New Zealand," said Treu.
The Springbok Sevens squad: Chris Dry, Chase Minnaar, Frankie Horne, Boom Prinsloo, Cornal Hendricks, Kyle Brown (captain), Branco du Preez, Bernado Botha, Paul Delport, Cecil Afrika, Steven Hunt, Mark Richards, Stephan Dippenaar, Renfred Dazel.
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