Cape Town — Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has named an elite training squad as he prepares for the 2023 World Deaf Sevens Championship in Cordoba, Argentina.
After five gruelling coaching clinics, 17 players were selected for the squad, which will be cut to 12 players ahead of the tournament that will take place from 5-9 April. South Africa last competed in the World Deaf Rugby tournament in 1995 and missed out on the 2003 and 2018 editions.
The other competing nations are hosts Argentina, Kenya, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, England, Japan and the reigning champions, Wales.
De Villiers, who coached the Springboks between 2008 and 2011, was assisted by technical staff at the training sessions in Gauteng, Western Cape, and Kwa-Zulu Natal. They include Marlize van der Merwe (assistant coach, Free State Women’s Rugby coach) and Andy Daniel (team manager, founder of scrum5rugby.com).
De Villiers is more than satisfied with the wider squad that he has named.
“We have managed, after a tough training program, to settle on a squad, which I think, with the necessary support, will be prepared and ready to represent our country with pride and dignity,” said De Villiers.
“I say to the chosen ones of this elite squad the hard work begins now. Let us find the will to put a marker down as we don’t want just to turn up, we want to compete.”
Van der Merwe added: “Being part of deaf rugby as a match official and coach was one of the most humbling highlights of my 20-year involvement in rugby.
“The inability to hear takes nothing away from your ability to perform as these men are proving.
“I am excited to see the combination of skills, ability and heart displayed to the world. These men are worthy of our support. Let us rally behind our team for the upcoming World Deaf Sevens.”
Many questions have been asked about how the players and coaches communicate effectively but for team manager Daniel, this hasn’t proven to be too difficult.
“Working with these players has been an incredible eye-opener for all involved but I have never worked with a team of sportsmen that have been so focused on the job at hand,” said Daniels.
“Because of their hearing impediments, it means other forms of communication are incredibly important and if that focus isn’t consistently at 100% then important messages will be easily missed.
“As for their abilities on the field, they are as good as any rugby players I have seen at this level and we are confident we are assembling a team that can go and win this tournament. We now just need the rest of South Africa to back us on this.”
Mining group ArcelorMittal South Africa has joined SADRA as an associate sponsor for the tournament.
“We are thrilled to be able to support this South African team as they ready themselves to compete against the best in the world at next year’s tournament,” said Kobus Verster, Chief Executive Officer of ArcelorMittal South Africa.
The company’s R350 000 year-long sponsorship will help cover the costs of the teams’ travel, accommodation and other expenses while in Argentina; as well as ensure that the teams are adequately equipped for the tournament.
“We are still on the hunt for a naming sponsor, and one more associate sponsor. We are calling on South African companies or brands to assist our boys in green to bring home the gold,” said Lauren Terras, SADRA vice president.
One of the selected players, Shani de Jager is also a member of the SA Deaf cricket team that participated in the DICC Champions League in September in Doha.
Elite Training Squad: Mark Barnard, Rodwin Beyers, Admar Claassen, De Jager, Marnus Dereckson, Andre du Toit, Michael Els, Lucien Farmer, Riyaldean Griffies, Gerard Kroese, Johan Liebenberg, Sam Mothapo, Patrick Molotshwa, Boitshepo Motlhala, Nkhumbuleni Nkhumeleni, Adin Pieters and Leon Willemans.