From “small” players to BIG stars

Two SA Sevens Blitzbokke have been honoured with places in the Dream Team of the Year at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 Awards.

Livewire big play producers Selwyn Davids (Nico Malan – 2013) and JP Pretorius (HTS Middelburg – 2016) have found their true calling in international Sevens where they have been able to reignite the form that once made them two of the most exciting talents from the schoolboy rugby Fifteens game from decade just ended.

In spite of head-turning influencing at age group level, their prospects of equally successful careers in the pro ranks were rightfully met with a quite a bit of scepticism back then. Both players were tagged as being too small for their respective positions to be considered amongst the genuine prospects who could continue on the path to the top after their schooling days.

Time is still on the side of both men who would stand to earn better incomes if they could guarantee longer term Fifteens contracts, but just like Sebelo Senatla, the try machine former World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, who ventured back to Fifteens, deep down most South African supporters wish they could all focus on turning themselves into Sevens legends instead.

While at school Davids who played any position from centre to fullback was one of those perfectly balanced runners with a wicked turn of pace and outstanding lateral ability. His memorable gift was his exceptional footballing skills which allowed him to execute a range of perfectly weighted chips and stabs while moving at full pace. This he combined with a vision for space beyond the primary defensive wall to make himself into a potent attacking force. At the time his play was reminiscent of that produced by prolific finisher Fabian Juries, who had once risen to be regarded as the best Sevens players on the international circuit. Davids has not quite turned out to be a Juries type player but has brought his own signature moves to be extremely effective in his position. Previously Davids’ efforts to transition to a recognisable senior Fifteens player went largely unnoticed. Now Sevens has elevated him to the type of star status that is bound to open the door to another bite at the apple.

The explosive Pretorius was pound-for-pound one of the strongest players of his age as a teen. Just about every carry resulted in tremendous ground gains for his school first team. Add to this his high work-rate ethic and you didn’t have to be present to visualise the defensive nightmare he posed to any opposition no matter how well prepared they were. Making Pretorius even more noticeable was his young Schalk Burger like spotlight blonde hair. Of course being from HTS meant Pretorius wasn’t easily able  to escape the comparison to his alma mater Kwagga Smit (Class of 2011) who had also once been a very successful Rooibulle 1st XV openside flank and later used the HSBC Sevens circuit to make a household name for himself as a bruising, never-say-die player; a characteristic that served as a springboard to a successful Fifteens pro career that took him to all the way to a Bok jersey and reached its pinnacle with a Rugby World Cup winning medal in 2019.

Men’s HSBC Dream Team:

JC Pretorius (South Africa)

Selvyn Davids (South Africa)

Scott Curry (New Zealand)

Tavite Veredamu (France)

Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji)

Jordan Conroy (Ireland)

Aminiasi Tuimaba (Fiji)

 

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