Injuries force changes to Blitzbok squad for Vancouver
SA Rugby Sevens ‘A’ squad members Noegh Hayward and Gurshwin Wehr will join the Springbok Sevens team in Vancouver on Wednesday and will make their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debuts at BC Place on the weekend at HSBC Canada Sevens.
The duo departed South Africa on Tuesday to link up with their fellow Blitzboks and will replace Jaiden Barron and Masande Mtshali, both of whom have been ruled out due to concussion.
Travis Ismaiel, who made his Blitzbok debut in Los Angeles last weekend, was also ruled out of the Vancouver tournament with a hamstring injury, and his replacement will be announced as soon as possible.
Hayward and Wehr are no strangers to the Blitzboks having trained with them for the last couple of months and they will now get a chance to play at international level.
Hayward, who represented DHL Western Province at Youth Weeks level and the Lions Under-19 team in 2019, joined the SAS Rugby Sevens Academy in 2022 and started training with the SA ‘A’ Sevens soon after. The 22-year-old will join Ricardo Duarttee, his roommate at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
“We started at the SAS Academy together and I was really happy for him when he got the call-up,” said Hayward.
“Now it’s my turn to get the call-up and I am sure he will be just as happy for me as we worked really hard last year and motivated each other.”
Like Duarttee, who sold his car to pursue his sevens dreams, Hayward also had some misfortune after the COVID pandemic halted and almost finished his career.
“I worked as a waiter for a couple of months to make ends meet and then got the opportunity to join SAS and then the SA ‘A’ Sevens, and I played for them in Dubai last November. Now I am flying to Vancouver. It is such an amazing feeling,” Hayward said.
The 24-year-old Wehr hails from Worcester and is part of an extended rugby family, with his oldest brother, Wendall Wehr, a familiar name on the provincial rugby scene having played for Boland and Windhoek Draught Griquas.
“I got an offer to join the Griffons in Welkom and things went quite well as we managed to win the Currie Cup First Division title last year,” said Wehr, who plays on the wing.
“I was then invited to come to Stellenbosch and now I am getting my chance. It is never nice to replace someone on tour due to injury, but I was on the standby list and ready to go.”
Wehr was part of the SA Rugby Sevens ‘A’ squad that played in the final of the Dubai International Invitational tournament last season, and was the leading points’ scorer in the tournament.
This weekend, the Blitzboks will play in Pool B of the HSBC Canada Sevens where they will face France, Japan and Argentina.