Coach Neil Powell says the Blitzboks’ title success at the Dubai Sevens came as a direct result of the team’s unity despite the squad’s limited time together.
The Sprinbok Sevens team battled to pool wins over Kenya, Spain and England, before making light work of Argentina (quarter-final), Samoa (semi-final) and New Zealand (final).
Powell says that his squad grew stronger as the tournament progressed, which helped them execute in several ways, but he has admitted to being somewhat worried after their first pool game against Kenya on day one.
‘I was wondering after that Kenya game if the guys would be able to find each other during the tournament – as we progressed in the tournament they did and became a very tight team at the end,’ said Powell.
Powell says he used the Dubai tournament to match some players who returned from fifteens with some of the junior players, who played last season.
‘Some of the younger players did not play with the older guys before and they needed to find each other out there,’ he explained.
‘Someone like Kurt-Lee [Arendse] has not played with Ruhan [Nel] or Rosko [Specman] before, so that was always going to be a challenge. They pulled together as a team over these six games and I am very proud of their effort.’
The Blitzboks’ defence was the cornerstone of their success in Dubai and Powell says that the team’s steady improvement as the tournament progressed was measurable in the way they defended.
‘They improved with every match,’ said Powell. ‘The step-up on defence was great and that was one area we are very pleased about. If you can keep teams out, you will be successful in tournaments.’
The first tournament of every new series is normally a bit of an unknown and Powell was impressed by a few performances from other teams, while also praising their opponents in the final, New Zealand.
‘The final against New Zealand was incredible and they deserve a lot of credit. It was very tight. In the first half there were a couple of end-to-ends and they scrambled so well.
‘We had turnovers and attacked, but their scramble defence was excellent and we just could not score. We stayed in control of the match though and that was the difference. From the kick-off we had control.
‘Samoa were not bad at all and Australia impressed me as well. England also played very well towards the end and New Zealand were strong.’
Powell said they will travel back home to South Africa with some confidence for next weekend’s Cape Town Sevens, from 13 to 15 December.
‘Coming to Dubai, it was not really about the outcome, but the process we needed to implement. We had a great effort out here and if we can repeat that, we can be successful in Cape Town again.’
• Seabelo Senatla extended his Springbok Sevens try-scoring record in the World Series to 227.
• Justin Geduld (27 points) was the leading scorer for the Blitzboks and Rosko Specman scored the most tries for the team (four).
• The Blitzboks claimed the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens crown for the seventh time since the World Series started in 1999.
• Rosko Specman was named Player of the Tournament.
Photo: @Blitzboks/Twitter/Getty Images