Benjamin suffered a calf injury on the eve of the tournament yesterday morning. The former Stormers wing will also miss next weekend’s tournament in Australia.
Dylan Sage, who made his Springboks Sevens debut last month in Cape Town, has been called up to replace Benjamin and will arrive in the New Zealand capital later tonight.
Benjamin joins the Blitzbokke’ growing injury list, which also includes experienced campaigners Werner Kok and Frankie Horne (long-term injuries), while regular skipper Kyle Brown and playmaker Cecil Afrika are both nursing niggles.
The Blitzbokke are eager win back-to-back legs after their home triumph in December, but they haven’t won in New Zealand since coach Neil Powell, and indeed former mentor Paul Treu, featured as players in the team in 2002.
For Powell, though, following up their performance in the Mother City with another solid outing is the most important goal this weekend. The results should then take care of themselves. “We have been successful there in the past, but it was a very long ago. I was still a player when we won it. Paul Treu was still the captain of the side!” Powell joked.
“We were third last season and second the year before, but we weren’t happy with our performance over the last couple of years, and we really want to change that.”
The Blitzbokke will have a relatively easy start to the their campaign when they play Scotland and Russia in the early hours of tomorrow morning (SA time). They will then face hosts New Zealand in a blockbuster clash later on.
The Kiwis have bolstered their team with superstar Sonny Bill Williams after a disastrous outing in the Cape. They suffered several injuries during that weekend, and at one stage they didn’t have any substitutes on the bench.
But, while the feature match on day one of the two-day tournament between the two great rugby rivals is a mouth-watering prospect, Francois Hougaard says the Blitzbokke aren’t looking past their first two opponents, the Scots and the Russians.
“Although the excitement about our pool match against New Zealand is something nice for the fans, we will really take it one game at a time,” said Hougaard, who two years ago scored a magnificent try in the Springboks’ first win over the All Blacks since 2011.
“That means we will focus on doing our best against Scotland, and then thereafter prepare to take on Russia.
“It was great to win in front of our home fans in Cape Town, but we all realise that you start every tournament from scratch.”
Philip Snyman will lead the squad in the absence of Brown. Snyman, Chris Dry, Seabelo Senatla and Justin Geduld are the only players in the squad who have played in 20 or more World Series tournaments.
But Snyman says the new guys in the team have to show their mettle, while also gunning for one of 12 spots on the plane to Brazil for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s a good opportunity for the other guys to see what they are worth,” he said.
South Africa Sevens squad:
Chris Dry, Philip Snyman (captain), Carel du Preez, Kwagga Smith, Sandile Ngcobo, Francois Hougaard, Cheslin Kolbe, Dylan Sage, Justin Geduld, Rosko Specman, Seabelo Senatla, Juan de Jongh
Matches: (SA time)
2.24am: vs Scotland
5.44am: vs Russia
9.30am: vs New Zealand
Original source: Blitzbokke gunning for Wellington win