New champions are set to emerge at the fifth annual Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens festival of rugby that kicks off at Andrew Rabie High School on Friday and finishes on Saturday.
With last year’s champions, Trojans from Cape Town, not back to defend their crown due to Varsity Cup commitments, a number of the 12 teams in the men’s open section could conceivably run away with the spoils.
Michael Gallinetti, former Eastern Province flyhalf and captain of the fancied local Junk Yard Dogs team, was cautiously optimistic on the eve of the event. “We want to be competitive and give a good account of ourselves, but in sevens rugby anything can happen.”
Gallinetti said the team was a mix of club and provincial stars and featured explosive players like Border lock Ashley Viviers and former EP winger Eckhardt Jacobs, who shone at the recent South African Rugby Union (Saru) interprovincial sevens tournament.
“We’ve also added some young blood to bolster the team,” said Gallinetti, who played sevens rugby for Italy in 2007.
From their pool of four, Gallinetti named the University of Johannesburg as the team to beat, but added that Despatch traditionally also fielded strong teams. He said Ezee Fana, from the Bay, were the unknown quantity.
Gallinetti said they were extremely motivated and looking forward to the challenge. “A few of the guys haven’t played in a while, but the competitive juices should start flowing once they step onto the field.”
EP Kings player and Junk Yard Dogs coach Jaco van Schalkwyk said provincial club champions Progress would probably be their major opposition should both teams make it to Saturday’s play-offs. “I’m confident we have the team to win the tournament¬ – that is our aim.”
Winning aside, Van Schalkwyk said he wanted his players to get into the spirit of the event and enjoy the matches. “It’s not every day that you get the chance to play in a sevens tournament of this stature.”
Progress player-coach Deon Booysen said earlier he believed that the Uitenhage-based team would also be a factor towards the business end of the event, but that it all depended on how well their final preparations went. “For us, every one of the teams presents a challenge.”
The programme starts at 9am on Friday and 8am on Saturday with the final whistle set to blow at around 7pm both days.
The tournament culminates in a prize-giving on the final evening where the top teams, players of the tournament and leading try scorers will be honoured.
Apart from rugby action, the event offers entertainment for the whole family. This includes a beer garden, live music, food and retail stalls and a kids’ adventure zone.
Entrance fees are R30 for adults and R10 for scholars. Tickets are available at the gates, which open at 8am daily.
Men’s open ¬– PE Harlequins, Gardens, Crusaders, African Bombers, Progress, Ammosal Rugby, Bobbies Bloem, Kruisfontein, University of Johannesburg, Despatch, Ezee Fana, Junk Yard Dogs.
Old boys ¬– Framesby, Junk Yard Dogs, Andrew Rabie, Queens.
U/19 – Andrew Rabie, Brandwag, Cillié, Daniel Pienaar, Easy Fana Dragons, Despatch, Harbhajan Force, Kirkwood, Lynx, Marlow, Otto du Plessis, Progress, Saints Invitation, Skymag, Spartans, Spitfire Invitation.
U/15 – Alex Force, Brandwag, Cillié, Daniel Pienaar, Elliot, Grey PE, Despatch, Lynx, Marlow, Otto du Plessis, Framesby and Ezee Fana.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens