Blitzboks aim for strong start

Blitzboks coach Neil Powell wants his side to build up winning momentum again on day one of the Singapore Sevens.

South Africa won five of their six matches in Hong Kong last weekend, but lost 22-0 to Fiji in the Cup final. The defeat was only their fourth in 42 matches as they made a number of basic errors in the match.

The result did not impact on the Blitzboks’ lead in the overall standings of the World Rugby Sevens Series, with the team still maintaining a 23-point lead. Singapore is the eighth of 10 tournaments in the series.

'We need to start well and build momentum from there, so in a way, the Japan match is the most important one of the tournament, as it will set the tone,' said Powell.

'They are a dangerous side when given space, so our defence will have to be spot-on. If we are going to allow them to run around, we will have a lot of defending to do.'

The Blitzboks will then face France.

'They played well against us last weekend in Hong Kong, where we won 17-10 and I think they will get a lot of confidence from that match,' said Powell. 'You never know which French team is going to pitch and that makes them very tough opponents.'

The final pool match against England could also prove the toughest one mentally and physically. Three of the Blitzboks’ four defeats this season (and a draw) came at the hands of England, with the defeat in the Vancouver final last month the most recent.

'Yes, they are difficult to beat,' said Powell. 'They are well coached and have the most experienced side in Singapore. They are very physical, but I think we lost against ourselves in the defeat in Vancouver.

'We played poorly in that final, so the challenge will be to trust our structures and systems. If we do that and cut out the basic errors we tend to make against them, we will be competitive.'

Blitzboks winger Siviwe Soyizwapi says the team is keen to rectify the mistakes from last weekend.

'In a way, we are lucky that Singapore is just a week after Hong Kong, which means we have a chance to fix things right away,' said Soyizwapi, who made his debut in Hong Kong last year and has since played in nine tournaments, scoring 21 tries. 'We have travelled well, the training sessions went well and we are ready to go out there and play for each other and for our country.

'Singapore is very hot and humid, pretty much like Durban, but that will only be a factor if we allow it to be. All the teams play in the same conditions, so it does not really matter.'

Blitzboks pool matches (Saturday):

vs Japan (06:06 SA time)
vs France (09:06 SA time)
vs England (13:02 SA time)

Stats & Facts:

– Sandile Ngcobo replaced Selvyn Davids (injured) in the only change to the side that played in Hong Kong last weekend.
– South Africa have won the Singapore tournament only once before, in 2004.
– Only six players from the squad in 2016 are back in Singapore this year: Chris Dry, Tim Agaba, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika and Ruhan Nel.
– Philip Snyman, Zain Davids, Stedman Gans, Sandile Ngcobo, Werner Kok and Dylan Sage will all play in the tournament for the first time.
– Kenya won the tournament in 2016, their only ever tournament success in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
– Cecil Afrika (1,227) could extend his South African record for career points in the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Photo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

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