With the 2016-17 HSBC World Sevens Series wrapped up‚ Blitzboks coach Neil Powell had no hesitation in calling up 19-year-old academy player Marco Labuschagne for the final leg in London.
The teenager replaces Tom Agaba who sustained a knee injury during last week’s victorious tournament in Paris‚ which sealed the overall World Series title for the Blitzboks.
Sandile Ngcobo‚ who travelled to Paris as the official reserve player‚ will replace Agaba in the 12-man squad and Labuschagne will be the official reserve in the touring squad.
Labuschagne‚ who matriculated from Voortrekker High School in Bethlehem in 2016‚ has been with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in Stellenbosch since the beginning of 2017 and was extremely happy and proud to get the call-up.
"I am so excited‚" he said. "This is a massive opportunity even if I don’t get a chance to play. Just to be with the squad and experience the series is a highlight for me.
"The academy has been great for my development and among other things‚ taught me patience. Coaches Marius Schoeman and Paul Delport are really good in what they do and I have learned so much from them. We all want to play‚ but sometimes you have to wait for your chance. The important thing‚ though‚ is to make sure you are ready when offered that opportunity."
SA Rugby Sevens Academy manager Marius Schoeman‚ was equally pleased for Labuschagne. "It is fantastic to have yet another one of our players being called up‚ as it shows that we are fulfilling our mandate to develop the next tier of potential Blitzboks. He is a well-skilled player and has developed nicely this year."
Schoeman praised Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell for his willingness to pick academy players. The Blitzbok coach has called Zain Davids‚ Stedman Gans‚ Selvyn Davids‚ Ryan Oosthuizen‚ Dewald Human and now Labuschagne into his squad to build depth in the Blitzboks.
"This is a great pathway‚ thanks to Neil’s willingness to give these guys the opportunity. There is a good understanding between us and the senior squad and it is something that we are keen to maintain‚" Schoeman said.
Previous graduates from the academy include Kwagga Smith‚ Werner Kok‚ Seabelo Senatla and Justin Geduld.