28 March 2014
The Springbok Sevens team will be aiming to reach an unprecedented sixth consecutive HSBC Sevens World Series Cup final as they go in search of their first Hong Kong Sevens title this weekend. The event kicks off on Friday and runs through until Sunday.
The Blitzbokke head into the event on top of the World Series standings, but only two points clear of New Zealand after runners-up finishes in Wellington and Tokyo.
Jimmy Powell’s charges will desperately want to win in Hong Kong for a number of reasons. The first is to get back to winning ways, while the second is to lay hands on a title they have never previously won, with their best results being runners-up in 1997, 2008 and 2009.
They will also want to atone for a poor showing in Hong Kong in 2013 in which they finished bottom of their pool, leading to them contesting the Shield, the fourth level of competition.
South Africa has been impressively consistent during the current World Series, reaching the semi-finals of each of the six events, while also winning titles in Port Elizabeth and Port Elizabeth. They will be aiming to maintain that momentum.
The Blitzbokke will be boosted by the return of playmaker Cecil Afrika, who missed the Tokyo tournament with a hamstring injury, while veteran Frankie Horne will be playing in his 58th consecutive World Series tournament, captain Kyle Brown in his 40th, and fellow forward Chris Dry his 35th.
Coach Neil Powell said in a statement on Thursday that he wants his team to hit their straps quickly. “It is vital for us to have a much better start because we will be competing against good teams in our pool for a qualifying spot in the quarterfinals,” Powell explained.
“We cannot wait again until the knockout stages to kick into gear because Australia, France and Spain are all strong sides, and we will be in trouble if we don’t get it right from the start against either of them.”
Captain Kyle Brown said his side was looking forward to the challenge awaiting them: “The weather has been great so far. It is nice and warm, which is similar to what we are used to back home,” he said. “Overall, our approach will be exactly the same as that for all the other tournaments this season. However, there are some areas in which we want to improve and we also want to increase our focus.”
Brown said the experience of his squad and consistency of selection helps him immensely as captain. “The capability and maturity of the squad makes it much easier for me as the captain. It is great to play with guys that take care of themselves on the field and who make sure we stick to the game plan,” he said.
South Africa face France on Friday, followed by their other Pool B matches against Spain and Australia on Saturday. The quarterfinals, semi-finals and various final matches take place Sunday.
SPRINGBOK SEVENS SQUAD
Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Frankie Horne, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Kyle Brown (c), Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Jamba Ulengo, Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla
Coach: Neil Powell
SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby