Not even Horne is safe in scrum for a Bl­itzbok jer­sey

‘Ev­ery­one knows they have to per­form or some­one as good will take your spot’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ZE­LIM NEL

THE first ca­su­alty in the race for a place in the SA Sev­ens team at next year’s Olympic Games is Frankie Horne, but his peers are cer­tain the vet­eran for­ward won’t go down with­out a fight.

Horne, 32, is the most ex­pe­ri­enced player in SA Sev­ens history, hav­ing ap­peared in 71 tour­na­ments since 2007; he would have par­tic­i­pated in his 69th con­sec­u­tive tour­na­ment in Dubai next week.

In­stead, the No 3 jer­sey as­so­ci­ated with Horne has been handed to Sev­ens rookie Fran­cois Hougaard, the com­bat­ive half­back who won Cur­rie Cup and Su­per Rugby ti­tles with the Bulls and has 35 Spring­bok caps.

Hougaard is one of more than a dozen play­ers from the 15-man code that have been in­cluded in Pow­ell’s en­larged Sev­ens squad with a view to en­sur­ing that the best avail­able tal­ent rep­re­sents South Africa at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Like Horne, Stephan Dip­pe­naar has sur­ren­dered his place to a cross­over player in Western Prov­ince cap­tain Juan de Jongh.

“Ob­vi­ously there are guys who are go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed,” said Se­abelo Se­natla, who led the 2014-15 World Sev­ens Se­ries with 47 tries.

“If you’re work­ing hard to make it ev­ery day and you don’t make it, you’ll feel pretty bleak about that.

“The guys are hurt be­cause they were gun­ning for a spot, but it’s not in bad essence... that shows that be­ing part of this sys­tem means some­thing to them. We feel for them, but only 12 guys can go.”

Horne has no in­ten­tion of miss­ing out on the Olympics. He has been named to cap­tain the SARU Sev­ens Acad­emy team, known as the Sa­mu­rai In­ter­na­tion­als, at the Dubai In­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment next week, and he will be de­ter­mined to use the op­por­tu­nity to keep the heat on Hougaard by show­cas­ing his su­pe­rior Sev­ens ex­pe­ri­ence.

Dip­pe­naar will also want to use the sec­ond-tier com­pe­ti­tion as a spring­board back into Pow­ell’s plans af­ter the first two tour­na­ments, while Tim Agaba and Siviwe Soy­izwapi, for­merly of the EP Kings, are ready­ing to make their de­but in the ab­bre­vi­ated for­mat.

Se­natla lauded the to­tal com­mit­ment of play­ers like Hougaard, Agaba and Soy­izwapi in the new in­take and cred­ited them with cre­at­ing a con­struc­tive com­pe­ti­tion for places.

“It’s been really tough for those guys,” he said. “The in­ten­sity is su­per-high and if you’re not used to it you are go­ing to get nig­gles. You can see by the amount of guys fall­ing out dur­ing prac­tices that it’s really, really tough, but the guys that have slot­ted in have done a pretty good job.

“They’re learn­ing fast and that’s why we’re see­ing a few debu­tants in th­ese two com­ing tour­na­ments.

“Like ev­ery­thing in life, when you have to work hard for it, you ap­pre­ci­ate it more. But we’ve al­ways worked hard, and the com­pe­ti­tion in the team brings out the best in ev­ery­one.

“Ev­ery­one knows they have to per­form or some­one as good as you will take your spot. So you have to pull your weight and work hard for the per­son next to you.”

BACKPAGEPIX

NO PRES­SURE: SA Sev­ens debu­tant Fran­cois Hougaard has been picked ahead of vet­eran Frankie Horne in the first squad of 2015-16.

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