International and South African Super Rugby stars will be on show in the inaugural Premier 7sPL in George in December.
Strauss officially launched the tournament in Johannesburg on Tuesday and confirmed the presence of numerous high profile teams and players, a R1 million price tag to the winning team and various other innovations for the two-day extravaganza.
The Super Rugby franchises of the Cheetahs, Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions will field teams, with at least two of them not scared to declare their intentions to win the very lucrative first prize.
Arni van Rooyen, team manager of the Cheetahs outfit, confirmed the inclusion of a couple of senior players in the central franchise’s team.
“We are going there to try and win the tournament,” Van Rooyen said.
“Coach Hawies Fourie will pick a team from our Super Rugby side and once they assemble in two weeks, we will have a better idea of who will play, but the likes of Rayno Benjamin, Kabamba Floors, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius and Willie le Roux should be core players.”
Sharks coach Roelof Kotze was impressed by his team’s performance at the interprovincial sevens tournament, which they won this past weekend in Pretoria by beating the EP Kings in the Final.
“Some of those players will be part of our team travelling to George, but I am waiting to hear which of the wish list of Super Rugby players will be made available. The likes of Keegan Daniel, Paul Jordaan and Cobus Reinach are amongst those,” Kotze said.
“The prize money is a definite carrot for us as we can use that money to strengthen our sevens program.”
Five private teams will also be looking for a return on their investment and claim the massive prize money.
All Stars coach Jimmy Stonehouse will be able to call on the likes of New Zealand Sevens wing Zar Lawrence, IRB world record points’ holder and former England captain Ben Gollings as well as Samoan powerhouse Alafoti Fa'osiliva.
The Samoan now plays for high profile French club Toulon, but was granted permission to play in the George tournament.
Shane Williams, who holds the Test try-scoring record for Wales, is another that should be South African bound next month after accepting an invitation.
Stonehouse, who coached the Russian Sevens team at the World Cup, said he is very excited to be involved with the team.
“I suppose we will be considered as one of the favourites to win the title and that brings its own pressures and the fact that there is a lot of prize money at stake is another factor. I think though that everyone is looking to enjoy themselves, express themselves and to play great sevens rugby.”
Kaizer Chiefs already named Gcobani Bobo their coach and Breyton Paulse their captain and will release the names of more squad members in the next couple of days, but on Monday added former SA Sevens player Mac Masina as their manager.
The Vikings, a team sponsored by Pretoria businessman Theuns Reynolds, will have former Springbok Sevens superstars Mzwandile Stick and Fabian Juries amongst others in their squad, whilst the Living Ball team will be spearheaded by the likes of former Blitzbok captain Jonathan Mokuena and Sharks legend Stefan Terblanche.
A dark horse will be the Samurai team, coached by former Blitzbok Neil Powell and consisting of players from the South African Rugby Union Elite Development Squad. The team already clinched the Safari Sevens in Nairobi a couple of weeks ago, beating the IRB core team and host, Kenya, in the Final.
Strauss said more illustrious names will be revealed as the lead-up to the tournament intensifies.
“We already have the who’s who of sevens rugby converging on George and I am very pleased with the positive feedback from the Super Rugby franchises about the quality of players they will use in this event. This is going to be a very unique event and we certainly can’t wait for it to happen.”
“We are looking at bumper crowds on both days and with everyone in festive and holiday mood, we should have a very social weekend at Outeniqua Park. We have lined up popular musicians like Nicolis Louw to provide entertainment, so it will really be a show not to be missed.”
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