Neil Powell says the Blitzboks must perform up to their own standards despite having little to gain in the final leg of the sevens series in Paris this weekend.
The Blitzboks are defending champions in France, but with Olympic qualification achieved, some could argue that there is not much to play for this weekend in the final of 10 tournaments in the series.
However, Powell is hopeful that with the high standards the team has set, they will deliver a positive result.
‘It is all about our standards,’ Powell says. ‘We cannot improve on our fourth spot and we cannot go down to five. It reminds me a bit of two years ago, when we had the World Series won with one tournament to go. Back then, we did not perform that well results-wise so we are keen to change that this weekend.
‘We did not have the best of weekends in London, and we would like to change that around here in Paris. The players are very keen to go out there and improve on that.’
The coach shared a bit of his tactical thinking for the weekend, where he is keen to try some new combinations.
‘I want to give some of the guys who did not start a match yet, such as Sako (Makata) a chance to do so, while JC (Pretorius) is coming off an injury and could do with some game time. Also expect to see Muller (du Plessis) getting a run at centre for example.
‘It will be done without sacrificing any of our standards – we are going out there very proud to wear that jersey that means so much to all of us.’
The return to the squad of the three replacements for this tournament, Cecil Afrika, Mfundo Ndhlovu and Dewald Human, came at the right time for the squad, Powell explained.
‘Some of the guys gave played in all nine tournaments to far, others have played six in a row and everyone is not necessarily on the same page mentally. The three new guys came to Paris with lots of energy, which is very valuable to the squad at this stage. Cecil has not played all season, Dewald last played in Sydney and Mfundo in Las Vegas, so they are all very keen to give it a go.
Powell makes no secret that their Pool B fixtures, against Wales, Kenya and Australia, will be tough for this squad.
‘Wales are very good at the breakdown technically and can punish you if not clinical. The Kenyans run hard and will be very physical, with lots of counter-rucking and we need to be ready for that. It is a good opportunity for us to play Australia again, to see where we are as a team and if we learned from those errors made against them.’
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) May 31, 2019
Paris Sevens stats and facts:
– The Blitzboks won the Paris Sevens in 2006, 2017 and 2018.
– Branco du Preez will extend his record for the most capped Springbok Sevens player of all time, playing in his 71st tournament.
– Du Preez is also set to extend his Blitzboks record for career conversions (406), the most by any South African player.
– Cecil Afrika is set to extend his Blitzboks record for career points (1430).
Blitzboks fixtures (Saturday):
11:44am: Vs Wales
3:10pm: Vs Kenya
6:58pm: Vs Australia