After a very average first four tournaments, despite their still rather poor fouth place on the World Sevens Series table, the Blitzboks will fielding a very young team for their first match in World Ruby’s Sevens tournament in Las Vegas.
For Springboks Sevens coach, Neil Powell, consistency has always been the key to success and resulted in two consecutive World Rugby Sevens Series titles, but it can be debated if his squad selection for this weekend’s Las Vegas Sevens was a gamble or calculated risk.
Powell made four changes to his squad and opted for youth and potential for the fifth tournament of the World Series in Nevada – not the usual norm if you are looking for consistency, which has been lacking so far in the 2018 SA Rugby Team of the Year’s arsenal in Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney.
Debutant forward, Sako Makata, will be backed up by JC Pretorius (one tournament), Impi Visser (four tournaments) and Ryan Oosthuizen (12 tournaments), with a heavy burden on Blitzboks captain Philip Snyman (58 tournaments) to impart his vast experience on the world stage.
In the backline, Powell will give the likes of Selvyn Davids (nine tournaments) and Mfundo Ndhlovu (two tournaments) more than enough time on the field to justify his trust in their game-breaking ability.
The coach believes the hunger and energy from the young guns will stand the team in good stead this weekend at the Sam Boyd Stadium, where they will face Japan, Chile and England in Pool C of the tournament.
“They are hungry for success, no doubt; and they have the potential and ability, no doubt,” said Powell.
“They have a great opportunity to combine that this weekend. We had a good week of preparation and coming in a day earlier than usual giving us just that little bit more time to focus on the small things that held us back in the previous tournaments.
“We are all on the same page for this one and I am excited for it to start. I challenged the new guys to show the desire to become world stars by investing in themselves.
“They put in extra sessions themselves, to improve their ability on things such as aerial skills, contact skills, passing and kicking. They accepted that challenge, just as they will accept the challenge laid down by some very good teams here this weekend.”
♦ The weekend is not only about the young guns though, with stalwarts Werner Kok, Justin Geduld, Branco du Preez and Siviwe Soyizwapi expected to deliver the type of performances that won them tournaments and the hearts and minds of many Blitzbok fans.
Powell also challenged the senior players: “We had certain characteristics and traits as a World Series winning team and they were part of that. We had a clinical approach on defence and rucks and forced our identity on other teams. That dominance must be visible again and if we can do that, the coaching staff will be quite happy at the end of the weekend.”