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By SARU Media Unit
The newly established SA Sevens Academy team returned from Uruguay on Wednesday where they reached the final of their first official tournament this past weekend, in Punta del Este.
The Sevens Academy team lost in the final to Argentina by 14-5, after they had beaten the Puma Sevens team on the first day of the tournament by 17-10.
Spearheaded by the 18-year-old Cheslyn Kolbe, who was named the Player of the Tournament, the SA Sevens Academy also beat Brazil (27-0) and Chile (24-7) on the first day. They were too strong for hosts Uruguay (24-7) and topped the log, setting up the final against the second-placed Argentineans.
“With the newly contracted group of Academy players only officially getting together this Sunday, 15 January, I think we can be more than satisfied with the performance in Uruguay, even though we lost against Argentina,” said Marius Schoeman, a former Springbok Sevens star who will coach and manage the SA Sevens Academy team in 2012.
Vuyo Zangqa, assistant coach to Paul Treu at the Springbok Sevens team, coached the Academy side on this trip, while a number of experienced players brought balance to a relatively young squad.
“It was always going to be a difficult trip. Due to flight availability, we left South Africa on 1 January at 06:00. We also did not have time for a pre-departure training camp and used mostly young players, some of whom only finished school late last year. It was a proper test on international level.”
According to Schoeman the primary aim of the Academy will be to be a feeder system to the Springbok Sevens team and to develop players before they join the national setup.
“We would like to see most of these players ready to make that step up in eight to 12 months’ time, in some cases perhaps even a bit longer. A star player in our Springbok Sevens team, Cecil Africa, trained with the Sevens Boks for a whole season without playing a tournament, which gave him the opportunity to come in on a different level and make an impact from day 1,” explains Schoeman.
While on tour, the team conducted a training clinic with the local Old Christians Club, who featured in the movie “Alive”, of the Uruguayan national team whose plane went down in the Andes and how some players managed to survive in terrible circumstances.
“The Academy will be attending a number of tournaments like this to help give them experience with tournaments and to develop these players and more who will join as part of our longer term goal; the Olympics 2016,” said Schoeman.
The SA Sevens Academy team to Uruguay: Dirk Dippenaar, Ruan Mostert, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Neil Powell, Derich Badenhorst, Craig Pheiffer, Cheslyn Kolbe, MJ Mentz (captain), Ruan van Loo.
Tom Kingston was nearly a Sevens player five years ago, just as he entered the professional rugby ranks.