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JOHANNESBURG — While the Blitzboks’ 6th place finish in Dubai – their worst performance in the desert in six years – really stings, the overriding feeling coming out of the Blitzbok camp is that this was an important wake-up. Neil Powell’s men might be guilty of a certain complacency, given that they had no warm-up tournaments prior to the start of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series season. Their conditioning wasn’t an issue. Their experience was never in doubt. Their inexperienced players acquitted themselves admirably. But the team whose players can almost read each other’s minds simply couldn’t gel. It happens. The human battering ram Werner Kok said they played for themselves and not for the team in Dubai. He feels that because the team is missing a number of stalwarts from last season like Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Ruhan Nel and the injured Cecil Afrika, the players each felt they needed to take on added responsibilities. The fact is that this team oozes talent and experience. It’s able to win tournaments and world titles even when key players are missing. That realisation, and playing in front of the passionate home crowd at the Cape Town Stadium will surely result in a much-improved performance. No wonder coach Neil Powell’s squad is unchanged for the weekend. – David O’Sullivan
Justin Geduld has recovered from the injury, which cut short his participation in the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, while Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell believes the improvement shown by his 13-man squad in the latter stages of last weekend’s tournament was enough to keep faith in the same players for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.
Powell named the same 12-man squad from last weekend to front up in the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. With Geduld back, Selvyn Davids will again be the official replacement.
Geduld took a knock halfway through the tournament in Dubai and was replaced by Davids. However, the experienced Blitzbok playmaker was cleared to play on Thursday, so the 24-year-old utility back reverts to the bench again.
“I was pleased with the performances against Scotland and Fiji, our last two matches last Saturday, and I saw more of that fluency and urgency in training as well this week,” said Powell.
“Knowing the players, they will all be desperate to correct last weekend’s disappointments and they get a chance to redeem themselves this week.”
Powell called in Chris Dry and Mfundo Ndhlovu to train with the Blitzboks this week, but was happy to tackle Pool A opponents New Zealand, Samoa and Zimbabwe with the same squad.
“We have learned lessons from last weekend, but that is also true for the other teams in the tournament,” said Powell.
“Everybody knows a little more of each other than was the case last week, so it will be tougher to break down defences, no doubt. That said, we know we can only improve from last week and that is a nice prospect.
Powell said the focus remains on the first match against Samoa at 12h27 on Saturday.
“We had a tough battle against them in Dubai and this time it will not be different,” said Powell of their Pacific Island opponents, who were beaten 19-12 by the Blitzboks last weekend.
“They are a very physical side with some big, fast players and we will have to be very sharp for our opening match.”
Powell also congratulated team physiotherapist, Hugh Everson, who will be running repairs for the Blitzboks in his 100th tournament.
“It was not planned like this, but I am pleased that Hugh can share this milestone with the Blitzboks fans in South Africa,” said Powell.
“He has been with the team since the days when I was still a player and he continues to be an important member of management. Congratulations to Hugh, it is well deserved.”
The Springbok Sevens squad for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens:
- Impi Visser (1 tournament, 6 matches, 0 points)
- Philip Snyman (captain – 55 tournaments; 254 matches, 346 points, 63 tries, 16 conversions)
- Ryan Oosthuizen (11 tournaments; 50 matches, 60 points, 12 tries)
- Zain Davids (14 tournaments; 65 matches, 50 points, 10 tries)
- Werner Kok (38 tournaments; 190 matches, 435 points, 87 tries)
- Kyle Brown (66 tournaments; 333 matches, 425 points, 85 tries)
- Branco du Preez (62 tournaments; 310 matches, 1175 points, 83 tries)
- Rosko Specman (27 tournaments; 144 matches, 360 points, 66 tries, 15 conversions)
- Justin Geduld (37 tournaments; 188 matches, 835 points, 86 tries)
- Dewald Human (5 tournaments; 23 matches, 74 points, 8 tries, 13 conversions)
- Siviwe Soyizwapi (19 tournaments; 95 matches, 290 points, 58 tries)
- Muller du Plessis (5 tournaments; 26 matches, 85 points, 17 tries)
- Selvyn Davids* (6 tournaments; 27 matches, 102 points, 14 tries, 16 conversions)
* Replacement Player
- Kyle Brown (67th) will move one tournament closer to the all-time Blitzboks mark of 68 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments achieved by Frankie Horne.
- Branco du Preez (1175) is second on the Blitzboks all-time points’ scoring list. Cecil Afrika (1430) heads that list.
The Springboks Sevens match schedule for Saturday 8 December:
12h27 vs Samoa
15h48 vs Zimbabwe
19h56 vs New Zealand