Young guns Dalvon Blood, Ricardo Duarttee and Masande Mtshali hope to use the Dubai leg of the World Sevens Series as a springboard to a successful Springbok Sevens career.
They have among them the most experienced Blitzbok of all time, Branco du Preez, who arrived in Dubai for the ninth time, while his junior team-mates received their first UAE arrival stamps in their passports.
South Africa face Great Britain (9.34am), Kenya (1.20pm) and Australia (6.33pm) in a tough Group A, starting on Friday.
Blood debuted at the France Sevens in Toulouse in May i He scored four tries in Toulouse but injured his toe in the tournament and had to return home instead of flying to London like the rest of his teammates.
But the 21-year-old winger from Cape Town is ready to take on the challenges Dubai will throw at him. “I have to say I felt really good in training, I felt light and fast and that’s good,” said Blood, a former Springbok Junior.
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“I know I can reflect on the first tournament I played and I’ll be more street-focused this time. I really enjoyed the tournament in Toulouse and it was devastating when I was told I had to go home.
“Since then I’ve had my ups and downs, but the most important thing is that I’m here now and ready to go into the games.”
For Mtshali, a 1.88m winger in 15s but a forward in sevens, the switch to the faster code was tough: “It wasn’t easy to adapt, but it was made easier by the support we got the senior boys gave.
“They all helped to learn all the finer details of playing sevens and forwards as well.”
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Mtsali started the year at Maties and was soon recruited into the Western Province Under-20s, but once he was invited to train with the Blitzboks, the traffic has been one-way.
“Yeah, I just focused on one thing and that’s becoming the best sevens player I can be,” he said. “I’m still young and there’s a lot to learn, but there’s already a responsibility to do the best I can. We’re playing for our country and there’s no question that it just requires your best effort.”
Like Mtsali, Duarttee received his official training shirt at the team’s first session and for the 24-year-old it was a very special moment.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Duarttee said. “I’ve worked really hard to be in this position, but I realize this is the next level. I hope to bring a lot of energy to the squad and, when given the opportunity, contribute to the overall effort. It’s going to be huge and I can not wait”.