28 November 2013
The Springbok Sevens team is geared for an important 10 days, starting on Friday with the Dubai Sevens and ending with the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth on 7 and 8 December. They’re out to make an impact on the HSBC Sevens World Series standings.
The South African team is aiming to improve on a fourth place finish in the Gold Coast Sevens last month, and will attempt to better an impressive record in Dubai that already includes three titles. They won their first in 2003 with a 33-26 defeat of New Zealand, followed that up with a second victory in 2006, this time by 31-12 over New Zealand, and a third win in 2008, by 19-12 over England.
That same season, the Blitzbokke claimed back-to-back wins when they captured their only Sevens title in South Africa so far by defeating New Zealand 19-12 in George. South Africa went on to top the overall World Series standings for the only time so far in the country’s history.
The squad that will do duty in Dubai and Port Elizabeth shows three changes from the one that was in action Down Under.
Cornal Hendricks, a prolific try scorer, is unavailable after joining the Toyota Cheetahs for the Super Rugby season, while Mark Richards and Steven Hunt are with the SA Academy Team, which will play as the Samurai International selection in the Dubai International Invitational.
Their places have been taken by fleet-footed Cheslin Kolbe, playmaker Branco du Preez and Werner Kok. Coach Neil Powell told SA Rugby said that while it was exciting to have game-breakers such as Kolbe and Du Preez back in the squad, their focus would be team-orientated.
‘A huge team effort’
“They have great individual talent, but we will need a huge team effort in this demanding tournament,” Powell said. “Our theme this year is to strive for consistency, which means that we will firstly be looking to reach at least the semi- finals.”
Powell said his charges had prepared well for the Dubai Sevens. “We played some good warm-up matches against three local university teams at home and that helped us a lot in terms of determining our state of readiness.”
Captain Kyle Brown said it was very important for his team to fare well in the first three tournaments of the season before a break until the Las Vegas Sevens in late January 2014.
‘A good foothold’
“We knew from the start that these two tournaments would serve as indicators of how the rest of the season will unfold. A good showing in Dubai and PE will give us a good foothold on the World Series log, from where we can attack for the remainder of the race,” he explained.
Brown also declared himself satisfaction with the Blitzbokke’s preparations for the next two rounds. “I feel we’ve had a good, strong four weeks of preparations and now it is up to us to perform on the playing field.
“We have a settled and experienced squad and it is nice that we could add some new but familiar faces, such as Cheslin and Branco. We want to top our pool on the first day and that challenge begins with Argentina, who have a formidable team,” he added.
South Africa open their Pool D challenge on Friday against the Pumas, with a mid- morning clash with Russia to follow before a final pool match against defending Dubai champions, Samoa, in the evening.
SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby