Blitzboks are ready to roll
The opening day will be tough, says Blitzbok coach Neil Powell
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell has unsurprisingly retained the same 12-man squad for the Cape Town leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series‚ which starts in the Mother City on Saturday.
After winning the 2016-17 series’ opening tournament in Dubai last week‚ it was unlikely Powell would have made any changes to the team.
Fortunately, minor niggles to captain Philip Snyman and Kwagga Smith were not serious and the pair were cleared for duty this weekend.
The Blitzboks won all six of their games in Dubai including a superb 40-0 win over New Zealand in the quarterfinals and a 26-14 win over Olympic gold medallists Fiji in the final.
The squad that will be defending its Cape Town title, as well as aiming for its fourth consecutive South African win after triumphing in Port Elizabeth in 2013 and 2014‚ has a combined 375 tournament caps. That makes the Blitzboks the most experienced of the 16 teams.
"We are fortunate to be able to again field an experienced squad‚" Powell said.
"There were niggles from Dubai‚ but those were expected as the guys had not played for a couple of months.
"Luckily for us‚ we returned from Dubai without any serious injuries and lots of belief in our systems," he said.
Powell introduced some special measures this week to try to refocus the team’s goals and mind-set.
"We had to start from scratch again. The players are experienced enough to be able to do that themselves‚ so I hope the triggers we provided will be successful," he said.
SA will face Russia‚ the US and Australia in Pool A on a tough opening day.
"We need to be sharp on Saturday‚ as it is a dangerous pool‚ with all three teams capable of beating a more favourite team‚" Powell said.
"The fact that we play at home will lift the players‚ no doubt‚ but we cannot just rock up and expect the crowd to motivate us and win the games for us with their support.
"We need to deliver and get them in the game."
Captain Snyman admitted that expectations at home were always huge. "We realise our fans are looking at us to deliver and we want nothing else."
Meanwhile‚ the Sevens have captured Cape Town’s interest with the Stadium sold out this weekend. Mayor Patricia de Lille has said that a Test at Cape Town Stadium is overdue.
The Springboks are set to play against the All Blacks in Cape Town in 2017 but SA
Rugby had not yet confirmed whether Newlands or the Cape Town Stadium would host the match.