The uncapped Ronald Brown, who has recently recovered from serious illness, will join a raft of experienced Springbok Sevens players when they travel to Madrid next month for two tournaments to be hosted by the Spanish Rugby Union.
South Africa’s two most experienced players, Branco du Preez and Chris Dry, will make the three-week trip to Europe along with an experienced group of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stalwarts, with Brown the only player to take to the skies for the first time in the green and gold.
Brown, a recent product of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy set-up and a FNB Varsity Cup star for the University of Johannesburg, graduated with an education degree in 2019.
It was the same year he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and following a number of chemotherapy sessions lasting several months, the sweeper has been cleared of the illness and is fit to resume his rugby career.
“Ronald’s story is remarkable and it’s great to finally see him graduate to the Blitzboks set-up,” said Neil Powell, coach of the Springbok Sevens team.
“The resilience he’s shown in fighting his illness, as well as his discipline and work-ethic, are the kind of characteristics we look for in players and I’m excited to see what Ronald can bring to the team.”
Also included in the squad are JC Pretorius and Selvyn Davids, who were named in the World Series Dream Team for the shortened 2020 season, while Zain Davids and Muller du Plessis also returned from their stints at the Cell C Sharks, where they were part of the Durbanites’ Carling Currie Cup and Super Rugby Unlocked squads.
Siviwe Soyizwapi will lead the team for the first time since December 2019. The winger was injured prior to last year’s tournaments in Hamilton and Sydney and then missed out altogether as the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two tournaments will be played on consecutive weekends – from 19-21 and 26-28 February – at the Campo UCM Central, Madrid and will be the first arranged by World Rugby to prepare teams that qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in July.
The world body in December announced financial grants to all Olympic participants, which were to be used towards training camps, competition support, technical and sports science, medical programmes and high-performance preparation events.
This will be the first of these events and for Powell, it comes at just the right time.
“We last played almost a year ago and we have been on the training field for almost six months now,” said Powell.
“All the players are very keen to get going and for us as coaches, the two tournaments will be an ideal opportunity to see where we are with regards to fitness, tactical awareness and squad depth.
“We have picked this squad for that purpose in mind, bearing in mind that some players, including Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans and Angelo Davids, were still involved in the Carling Currie Cup and will have a rest period once that is completed.
“The rest of the group will stay behind in Stellenbosch and continue with their preparations. They will be in the mix when the next set of tournaments come around, COVID-depending.”
The travelling squad will undergo COVID testing prior to departure to Spain, in adherence to tournament regulations, and will again be tested upon arrival in Europe, where the tournaments will be played in a bio-bubble.
Springbok Sevens squad: Chris Dry, JC Pretorius, Zain Davids, Sako Makata, Christie Grobbelaar, Selvyn Davids, Branco du Preez, Justin Geduld, Ronald Brown, Muller du Plessis, Mfundo Ndhlovu, Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain). James Murphy and Darren Adonis are the non-travelling reserves.