Cecil Afrika has ended his celebrated 12-year Sevens career and unless called upon, South Africa’s highest point-scorer will not wear the national colours again after a mutual agreement between the player and Sevens management.
The 32-year-old’s national contract will run its course at the end of July and with no international matches or tournaments scheduled in that time, it means that the former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year (2011) will bow out after 345 Sevens Series matches and with a points tally of 1,462.
Afrika, who made his debut in Dubai in 2009, played in his final and 66th tournament for his country in Vancouver in March this year. He was part of two World Series-winning Blitzbok squads (2017 and 2018), as well as Team South Africa that won Commonwealth Games gold (2014) and Olympic bronze (2016) medals.
Sevens coach Neil Powell confirmed the departure of Afrika. ‘It is one of those inevitable things in professional sport, but even so, it remains a sad day to say goodbye to Cecil when his contract expires,’ said Powell.
‘He has been a great in the game, his achievements speak for itself and he inspired many to enjoy the game of sevens.
‘I played with Cecil when he made his debut in 2009 and, in the last couple of years, had the privilege of coaching him as well. He was a truly gifted player who came back from some serious injuries more than once to achieve amazing feats as a player and squad member.
‘We will say goodbye to him in a more formal way later in the year, but for now the Springbok Sevens management would like to thank him for his contributions over the many years he has been with the Blitzboks.
‘Cecil has set very high standards for those to follow and there is no doubt that he will leave the jersey in a better place, something every international rugby player strives for.’
Powell added that the decision to give Afrika a swansong year in 2020 was already made in 2019.
‘We extended his contract last year in order for him to have a shot at making the Olympic squad, but with that being postponed to next year, that option cruelly fell away and is not available anymore.
‘We have proper post-career guidance in place for all in the squad and I know Cecil is already dipping into the business world, where he will be successful, no doubt.’
Afrika – who owns a Stellenbosch-based coffee business with former teammates Kyle Brown and Philip Snyman – said he understands that retirement is part of professional sport, but he will be available if the team needs him.
‘Beyond contractual agreements, as a professional athlete, one is always aware of the fact that the time will come that you either stop playing for a team or when you retire, and in this instance it only means that I will not be with the Blitzboks.
‘Being part of the Springbok Sevens has been a truly and incredible time of my career and the Blitzboks will forever be family and home.
‘I cannot go without saying a massive thank you to the supporters. I always appreciate their unrelenting and continued support, encouragement and the part they play in making this sport as spectacular as it is. Hopefully they will continue to support me wherever I go.’
Afrika is not quite letting go of his dream to make it to next year’s Olympics, though, and is still keen to lace up his rugby boots.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic we are currently facing is definitely not something anyone wished for and was certainly not expected, and as much as it has rearranged and possibly unsettled my Olympic 2020 chances, it is a dream deferred and not cancelled.
‘As management has mentioned, the possibility remains should the opportunity to play in the 2021 Olympics present itself. I am always ready to play should the Blitzboks need me.’