Blitzboks excited by SBW challenge

Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says it will be interesting to see how sevens newcomer Sonny Bill Williams copes with the defensive demands of the game. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

Williams is set to make his sevens debut at the Wellington leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series at the end of January, and with New Zealand drawn in the same pool as the Blitzboks, it should make for an enthralling encounter.

Powell, speaking at the Springbok Sevens' Steinhoff sponsorship launch in Stellenbosch on Wednesday, reiterated that the Blitzboks were excited by the challenge waiting in Wellington.

‘One player can’t make a team, sevens is all about team work. So, while Sonny Bill might bring something on attack, we’ll have to see how he’ll go on defence because that’s the most difficult part of sevens … It will be interesting to see how he goes and adjusts to the intensity and speed of the game.'

At the Cape Town Sevens last December, where the Blitzboks emerged victorious, Powell was mindful of the fact that his side progressed to the final without facing traditional sevens powerhouses Fiji and New Zealand.

‘We want to test ourselves against the best in Wellington,’ Powell commented. ‘It will be important to see how some of the new players fare against the likes of New Zealand, and Fiji if we face them later on. So we’re looking forward to that.’

Stand-in skipper Philip Snyman emphasised that the Blitzboks had adopted the mindset of starting with a ‘clean slate’.

‘We can’t just expect things to fall into place exactly like it did in Cape Town. Whether it be after a great win or a bad loss, it’s important to start all over again. So we need to execute what we’ve been training to do.’

Although the Springboks will head to Wellington without key players such as Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok, who are all injured, Snyman said he was confident the team would be able to cope.

‘It’s a long season for us, and there are some new opportunities for other guys to make an impression. It’s unfortunate that Kyle and the guys won’t be there, but I’m confident other players will stand up when required.

‘From my side, it’s important to lead by example, but I also want to just go out to play my normal game,’ Snyman added. ‘It’s a great honour to be named captain, but we have so many leaders in this team, which I’m sure will make my job a lot easier.’

Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis