Coach Neil Powell says this weekend’s Cape Town Sevens provides an important opportunity for the Blitzboks to take another step towards becoming the No 1 team in the world. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Springbok Sevens have had to settle for second place in the last three seasons of the World Rugby Sevens series, while they could only manage to clinch the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics last August.
However, the Blitzboks have now made the perfect start to a new season after storming to the Dubai title in the opening leg of the 2016-17 series last weekend, while they will now return to defend their crown at the highly-anticipated Cape Town event.
At a press conference at the team hotel on Thursday, Powell highlighted just how determined the team was to keep riding a wave of momentum, while also continuing to build for the future.
‘For us as a team, one big goal is to take that extra step to becoming the No 1 team in the world and developing the next generation. We’re in the first year of a four-year cycle to the 2020 Olympics, and it’s important to look at the next generation of players. So we do have some big plans in place going forward.’
A feature of the Blitzboks’ play last weekend was been their organisation on defence and accuracy at the breakdown, which has gone a long way to ensuring they are an increasingly ‘complete’ team.
‘It’s been really important for the guys to keep making good decisions in the defensive system, especially by not overcommitting around the ruck areas,' Powell commented.
'The players are all implementing their specific roles really well, and we’ve seen the benefits of them getting off the line quickly and getting into the face of the opposition. Hopefully we can do the same at this Cape Town tournament because we know we’re in a very tough pool [with Australia, the USA and Russia], and that teams will be looking to counter our defensive system.’
Importantly for the Blitzboks, a couple of players have recovered from injury niggles this week, with Powell able to name an unchanged squad for the Cape Town tournament.
‘We want to ensure that we improve our ability to hang onto the ball in contact, while our lineouts and kick-off receipts are always areas of our game we’re looking to work on. The mental approach is also going to be very important in terms of getting back to zero and starting all over again. We need to approach this tournament with a clean slate.’
Photo: Tom Dulat/World Rugby