Blitzboks coach Neil Powell said it was heart-warming to see the effort by the players in training this week as they prepared for the first all-or nothing tournament of the World Rugby Sevens series in Hamilton.
The Blitzboks kick off their challenge in the new-format tournament where only the winning team in each pool will progress to the semi-finals and hopefully the final. The second-placed side in a pool can no longer rectify matters in a quarterfinal.
A single loss, or even a draw with points difference the deciding factor, can mean the end of a title challenge.
♦ "The guys showed great attitude,” said Powell about their preparations in Hamilton, reports SA Rugby Communications.
“It is not easy to change your sleeping patterns and the 11-hour time difference has an impact, but our guys were great in how they handled that. There was good energy."
The Blitzboks played Japan both in Dubai and Cape Town last month, scoring big wins in both, but Powell is adamant that those results are in the past.
“For a start, this is not the same squad that played in those two tournaments – in fact, it is probably the strongest Japan team we have seen in a while,” warned the Blitzbok coach.
“Several of their stars are back, guys that played in the World Cup and even the Olympics, so they will be a tough nut first up. They have some good balance in their team, with a few Fijian-born players with their offloading game complimenting the nippy and fast Japanese runners. So, we dare not underestimate them.”
All of Japan, England and Kenya will test the Blitzboks in various ways, but for Powell the focus will be on the first match.
“We only play two matches on the first day, so we can leave it all out there and make sure we come back strong on the second day for our match against Kenya.”
The Springbok Sevens squad -
1. Chris Dry (70 tournaments, 354 matches; 480 points, 96 tries)
2. Angelo Davids (two tournaments, 11 matches, 10 points - 2 tries)
3. Impi Visser (11 tournaments, 57 matches, 65 points, 13 tries)
4. Zain Davids (20 tournaments, 100 matches; 65 points, 13 tries)
5. Werner Kok (47 tournaments, 240 matches; 530 points, 106 tries)
6. JC Pretorius (seven tournaments, 39 matches; 70 points; 14 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (71 tournaments, 361 matches; 1302 points; 94 tries, 413 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids (16 tournaments, 81 matches; 334 points: 35 tries, 78 conversions, 1 penalty)
9. Justin Geduld (48 tournaments, 251 matches; 1016 points; 109 tries, 234 conversions, 1 penalty)
10. Cecil Afrika (62 tournaments, 324 matches; 1440 points - 175 tries, 281 conversions, 1 penalty)
11. Muller du Plessis (10 tournaments, 44 matches; 155 points, 31 tries)
12. Stedman Gans (captain, 18 tournaments, 85 matches; 130 points, 26 tries)
13. Sako Makata (six tournaments, 25 matches; 10 points, two tries) – official reserve.
Blitzboks’ playing schedule (SA kick-off times):
02:03 – Japan
07:30 – England
01:13 – Kenya
The Pools in Hamilton are:
A: New Zealand, Scotland, USA, Wales
B: South Africa, Kenya, England, Japan
C: France, Ireland, Canada, Spain
D: Fiji, Argentina, Australia, Samoa
Issued by SA Rugby Communications