Blitzboks ready to break Hong Kong hoodoo
Confident after winning the Canada leg of the HSBC World Series, the SA side aim to win Hong Kong Sevens title for the first time
The Blitzboks are only looking forward as they attempt to win the Hong Kong Sevens for the first time after several near misses over the years.
After winning round six of the current HSBC World Sevens Series in Vancouver in March‚ the Blitzboks are confident but not dwelling on what has gone before — only what lies ahead.
“There are a couple of changes and a total of four new players from the Vancouver tournament‚ and that considered‚ I am happy with the way things went‚” coach Neil Powell said.
“That win will not mean anything here in Hong Kong. It did help with the belief and was good reward for the work done up to that point. It gave the squad some momentum.
“We start afresh here in Hong Kong though and all focus will be on delivering a performance we can be proud of in our first match against Japan.”
Powell made two significant changes to the squad for the trip‚ moving Werner Kok to the forwards and including the uncapped Angelo Davids. Integrating them into their new roles was part of the focus this week.
“They need to understand their roles and responsibilities in the team‚ so we did focus a bit on that‚” said Powell. “The most pleasing aspect about the win last time was the development of individual players into the team environment and the development of the team in executing our processes. If we can continue making progress in that regard I will be a happy coach.”
Powell said the younger players — four are making Hong Kong debuts — have brought heaps of energy into the squad.
“It is now up to the senior players to use that energy and guide the guys in channeling it into the right direction. If we manage that‚ we will be good for this weekend.”
He is under no illusions of what the Blitzboks can expect from Japan‚ their first opponents. “We played them in Las Vegas early last month and won 26-0‚ but they had us under pressure at times‚” said Powell.
“They use the rush defence well and I see they have some guys from Pacific Islander origin that played for them in the past‚ back in the team.”
Powell said the Blitzboks will need to get their focus right for the match.
“We play at 6pm [Hong Kong time]‚ so it becomes a long day waiting to get started. It is important to be switched on when the game kicks off.”
Meanwhile‚ Blitzboks midfielder Stedman Gans said he is keen to improve on his growing maturity as playmaker and leader in the team‚ with his status in the squad having changed from “asking the questions” to “providing the answers”.
“Yes‚ my role has changed a bit; the younger guys are now where I was a year or so ago‚ asking a lot of advice and looking for ways to improve. Now I find them coming to me for answers‚” Gans said.
Time on the field has been the key to unlock his bigger impact in the squad‚ so much so that Gans is in the starting line-up every time they take the field.
“Time on the field gives you confidence and your impact on the ball gets better. The more you play the more you can anticipate and that gives you more time on the ball‚” he said‚ adding that he hopes to be a guiding light again this weekend‚ albeit in different circumstances.
“Last year we were complete underdogs. This time we arrived here as the team who won the previous tournament [in Canada]‚ and so the expectations will be different. For us though‚ it is all about starting from zero again and making sure we implement our processes.”
The Springbok Sevens’ Pool A fixtures (SA times)