Blitzbokke set for World Series opener

10 October 2013

The Springbok Sevens team kicks off its season in the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia this weekend, with Neil Powell coaching in his first Sevens World Series tournament.

Powell was recently appointed to replace Paul Treu, who coached the Blitzbokke from 2003 to 2014.

The new coach has a lot to work with after South Africa won three tournaments in 2012/13, as well as the gold medal at the 2013 World Games, but his challenge will be to draw more consistent play from his squad.

Successes and disappointments

While South Africa won tournaments in Las Vegas, Tokyo and Edinburgh – more wins than any other team – they also had a number of disappointing outings, most notably in the Hong Kong Sevens, where they finished bottom of their pool and ultimately lost in the semi-finals of the Bowl, the third level of knockout competition.

In Dubai, a loss to Portugal in a pool game prevented the Blitzbokke from progressing to the Cup competition, while South Africa lost in the semi-finals of the Plate in Wellington and London, where the USA twice defeated the green and gold.

Coach Paul Treu had to deal with a lengthy list of injuries last season, but the gap between the good and the bad is what Powell needs to narrow.

‘Huge motivating factor’

Before heading for Australia on Monday, Powell told the media: “We realise that every time a South African team takes the field then the expectation from public is for us to win. It is a huge motivating factor for the team and something we as a group embrace.

He was happy, he added, with his charges’ preparation for the tournament Down Under. “A few players ended the last season with some injury niggles and they used the break and pre-season period to sort themselves. Playing wise, we used the Middelburg Sevens to try out a few new ideas and I am glad for the valuable opportunities it gave us to gauge ourselves,” he said.

On taking charge of the Springbok Sevens team, Powell said: “I know a lot of other countries have changed coaching and player personnel, but we are fortunate that apart from the change at head coach, we have a settled squad and management. However, we are taking nothing for granted and fully realise we will have to go out there and perform to the best of our ability.

‘Minor tweaks’

“Vuyo (Zangqa, assistant coach) and I sat down a while ago and decided that that we will do only some minor tweaks because our core structure is so good thanks to the great work done by Paul.

“I am obviously excited about this challenge and looking forward to work with a great set of players and management.”

Since 2007, the Blitzbokke have enjoyed some strong results in Australia. They finished third in the Gold Coast Sevens in 2011 and 2012. They won the Adelaide Sevens in 2008 and 2009, and finished as the Plate runners-up in 2007 and 2010.

SPRINGBOK SEVENS SQUAD

Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Frankie Horne, Jamba Ulengo, Cornal Hendricks, Kyle Brown (captain), Sampie Mastriet, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Cecil Afrika, Mark Richards, Steven Hunt