Experienced Springbok wing Bryan Habana has been selected for the Springbok Sevens squad to play in their tournament in Las Vegas and Vancouver, SA Rugby announced today.
Habana, South Africa’s prolific Test try scorer, joined the squad on Tuesday in Stellenbosch to make himself available for selection, following an agreement with his French club side, Toulon. The last time he appeared for the Springbok Sevens was over a decade ago.
SA Rugby said the inclusion of Springboks Habana and Ryan Kankowski are two of seven changes in the Springbok Sevens squad of 13 players for the next two rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in North America.
The popular Vegas tournament takes place from 4 to 6 March in the USA and will be followed by the inaugural event in Vancouver, Canada, on 12 and 13 March.
Habana was released by Toulon to play for the Springbok Sevens in the next two rounds of the World Series, while Kankowski recently joined the squad on a fulltime basis, at the conclusion of the Japanese club season.
Habana has only ever played twice for the Springbok Sevens – back in 2004, in Wellington and Los Angeles, a couple of months before his Springbok Test debut.
Neil Powell, Springbok Sevens coach, described Habana’s availability for the next two rounds of the World Series as a fantastic development for his squad.
“Bryan is an unbelievable rugby player and his outstanding playing record and achievements in the Springbok jersey speaks for itself,” said Powell.
According to Powell, Habana will add something special to his already powerful squad. “Bryan is one of those players that always has a lot of energy. Apart from that, he brings with him a lot of experience of playing rugby at the very top level, so in that sense his presence in the squad will also be a great motivational factor for our guys,” added Powell.
“I can tell you Bryan is very eager to learn. He realises that it’s been a very long time since he last played Sevens, but he is excited by this challenge and really looking forward to be part of our system.”
Apart from the inclusion of the experienced Springbok duo, the squad was further boosted by the return of several other Springbok Sevens stalwarts.
Regular skipper Kyle Brown has shrugged off his shoulder injury and takes over the captaincy from Philip Snyman, who himself is sitting out the next two rounds after hurting his shoulder in Sydney.
Meanwhile, Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez, Justin Geduld as well as the versatile Ruhan Nel all return to the squad as part of the team’s rotational policy. Afrika (hamstring) and Geduld (shoulder) are fit again after suffering injuries in previous tournaments.
Du Preez is picked for the first time this season now that he has successfully completed his rehabilitation programme following a shoulder operation last year.
Francois Hougaard has joined Aviva Premiership club Worcester Warriors on a short term contract and is due to return to the squad in time for the last two tournaments in Paris and London.
Carel du Preez, Sandile Ngcobo, Cheslin Kolbe and Juan de Jongh are the other players who featured in squad that finished second in Wellington and fourth in Sydney respectively. Kolbe and De Jongh have returned to the DHL Stormers franchise for the start of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.
After the selection announcement Powell said he is excited by the make-up of the squad: “Bryan and Ryan bring an extra dimension to the squad. Both are experienced Springboks and they add a lot of other rugby intelligence to our system…and I am looking forward to see how they perform in the World Series.”
Powell explained that he will give Kankowski time to recover from a slight knock he suffered in training and that the player will be ready to play in Vancouver.
The Springbok Sevens coach was also delighted with the return of his quartet of experienced players: “Kyle, Cecil and Branco have each played in more than 35 tournaments while Justin has played in over 20 events. They add a lot of experience and we are extremely happy to have them back in the squad,” said Powell.
South Africa will face Canada, Wales and tournament hosts the United States, in the pool stage in Las Vegas.
The squad will fly out to Las Vegas on Friday evening.
The Springbok Sevens squad for Las Vegas and Vancouver (with World Series tournament in brackets):
1. Chris Dry (48 World Series caps)
2. Dylan Sage (3)
3. Tim Agaba (1)
4. Kwagga Smith (19)
5. Bryan Habana (2)
6. Kyle Brown (captain, 50)
7. Branco du Preez (41)
8. Rosko Specman (9)
9. Justin Geduld (21)
10. Cecil Afrika (39)
11. Seabelo Senatla (23)
12. Ruhan Nel (6)
13. Ryan Kankowski (4)
Brief player profile of Bryan Habana:
Springbok number: 766
Test debut: 20 November 2004 vs England in London, aged 21
Total Tests: 117
Tour matches: 4
Total Springbok matches: 121
• Holds Springbok record for tries in Tests for South Africa (64) and for most tries overall as a wing (64).
• Most capped Springbok wing (116).
• Record-holder for most tries in a career in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (19).
Honours: SA Rugby Player of the Year (2012, 2007 & 2005); Young Player of the Year (2004); IRB Rugby Player of the Year (2007); Vodacom Rugby Super 12 Player of the Tournament (2005); SuperSport Try of the Year (2005, Vodacom Bulls vs Blues in Pretoria; 2007, Vodacom Bulls vs Sharks in the Super 14 Final in Durban; and 2012, South Africa vs New Zealand in Dunedin).
• Scored a record equalling eight tries during RWC 2007.
• Equalled Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 tries in all RWC games in 2015 in England.