Cape Town — He was due to make his Springbok Sevens debut at the Hong Kong Sevens a year ago, but an untimely ankle injury dashed Angelo Davids’ dream.
This time around, however, Davids is part of the Blitzboks team that will take to the hallowed turf of Hong Kong Stadium hoping to follow in the footsteps of idols such as Rosko Specman and Seabelo Senatla.
The 19-year-old winger was earmarked to play at the event in 2018, when Blitzbok coach Neil Powell and SA Rugby Sevens Academy Manager Marius Schoeman opted for a youthful squad to travel East, while the senior players stayed in Stellenbosch to prepare for the Commonwealth Games in Australia 10 days later.
The move worked brilliantly from a World Rugby Sevens Series point of view, as the young guns won bronze and the hearts of the crowd in Hong Kong, but an ankle injury left Davids watching the action on TV back in South Africa.
He recalls that disappointment, but also the joy when he was told last week he will be travelling to Hong Kong as a Blitzbok after all.
“I missed out and it hurt, but unfortunately I had an ankle injury and could not play – since then, I have been dreaming of my next opportunity,” Davids said after his first field session in Hong Kong.
Just as his injury served as an opportunity for someone else last year, Davids was named in the squad after Muller du Plessis pulled out a week ago due to a leg injury, and for the former Stellenberg High School star, it came as a bit of a shock.
“I did not quite expect the call-up to Hong Kong, especially since the guys did so well in Vancouver,” Davids explained.
“It is never nice to cover for an injury, but these things happen in rugby.”
He has been with the squad long enough know to know what is expected, but he still plans to keep a close eye on Blitzboks captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi, this week. He is likely to replace the skipper on the wing to earn his debut.
Davids admits that he has learned a lot from former Blitzboks, Seabelo Senatla and Rosko Specman.
“If I can contribute the way they did, with their speed and feet, I will be very happy,” he said.
“In the end though, I need to be Angelo Davids, not a copy of someone else. I am very keen to go out and contribute.”
For stalwart Werner Kok , playing in Hong Kong will also be an interesting challenge this time around after being moved to the forwards – a new responsibility he is embracing.
“I have played as a forward occasionally, but this will be a nice, new challenge,” Kok said.
“I am comfortable with some of the tasks, but jumping in the lineout is new to me. It went well in training last week, but the challenge will be in the actual matches.” Kok may have played 218 matches for the Blitzboks, but there will be some nervous excitement this weekend.
“It is a new role for me and I am keen to try it. Being here and being part of the squad is motivation enough to always give your best,” said Kok, who was named Player of the Tournament the last time he visited Hong Kong, in 2017.
“We are going through some system changes as a squad and everyone is excited about it. The future of Springbok Sevens look bright.”
Blitzboks squad for Hong Kong:
1. Ryan Oosthuizen (13 tournaments, 61 matches, 65 points, 13 tries)
2. Sako Makata (2 tournaments, 9 matches, 0 points)
3. Impi Visser (6 tournaments, 35 matches, 20 points, four tries)
4. Zain Davids (18 tournaments, 88 matches, 60 points, 12 tries)
5. Werner Kok (43 tournaments, 218 matches, 485 points, 97 tries)
6. Kurt-Lee Arendse (one tournament, two matches, 0 points)
7. Branco du Preez (67 tournaments, 339 matches, 1120 points; 88 tries, 387 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids (11 tournaments, 53 matches, 237 points, 27 tries, 51 conversions)
9. Justin Geduld (42 tournaments; 217 matches, 904 points – 95 tries, 213 conversions, 1 penalty)
10. Stedman Gans (15 tournaments, 69 matches, 105 points, 21 tries)
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain; 24 tournaments, 124 matches, 385 points, 77 tries)
12. Angelo Davids (on debut)
13. Chris Dry (66 tournaments; 331 matches, 465 points, 93 tries) – travelling reserve
The Springbok Sevens’ Pool A fixtures:
Friday, April 5:
12:06 v Japan
Saturday 6 April:
05:41 v Scotland
09:22 v Samoa