The Blitzboks took time out of their training session in Cape Town on Tuesday to play a game of soccer, which showed some surprisingly good round ball skills — although finishing‚ just like it was with an oval ball in the Dubai leg last week‚ was sorely lacking.
By the admission of several key players such as Rosko Specman‚ Werner Kok and Branco du Preez‚ the Blitzboks were under par last weekend when they finished sixth in Dubai.
But they have also moved on from their disappointing display as they focus on trying to win the Cape Town leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series. It would put them immediately back on track in terms of the overall title.
The Blitzboks’ lineout and attack training session at Bishops in Cape Town looked sharp and focused, but according to Werner Kok‚ it will be Thursday’s defence session that matters most.
The Blitzboks were uncharacteristically porous on defence in Dubai and it is something they will have to sharpen with pool games against Samoa‚ Zimbabwe and New Zealand to come.
Last week their ability to put ball carriers under pressure‚ dominate the breakdown and win turnovers to launch counter-attacks was largely absent in Dubai.
They missed 55 tackles in six matches in Dubai‚ which is way below their own high standards.
“We have to get our system into place,” Kok said.
“We saw it coming together in the last two games in Dubai [against Scotland‚ who they beat 29-0 and Fiji to whom they lost 24-19]‚” he said.
“The one-on-one tackles were a lot better. There are some positives that we can take out of those games.
“Defence is certainly something we will be looking at closely in the training session on Thursday,” he said.
“We made some poor decisions and conceded turnovers. We also made too many high tackles that led to penalties and opportunities for the opposition. We have to go in lower with our tackles this weekend.
“The first four games in Dubai were not up to standard and although we lost [in extra time] against Fiji‚ we did a lot right.
“We ’ve had this week to build on that and we have been talking about being patient and using the opportunities we created.”
The Blitzboks have not won in Cape Town for two years, but Kok believes that only serves to focus their minds this weekend‚ especially after falling 10 log points behind Dubai winners New Zealand at this early stage of the campaign.
“We need to do well in Cape Town,” Kok said. “The support we get here will be key. We need the whole country behind us.”