Blitzbok stand-in captain Stedman Gans says they are up for the challenge of an altered playoff format in the Hamilton Sevens this weekend.
The format of the tournament has changed from recent years, with only the top team in each pool going into the semi-finals, while the combination with the women’s tournament will also have an extended rest period between matches.
Furthermore, the Blitzboks travelled to New Zealand with five players getting a first taste of the current series, and a new captain in Gans, who has stepped up in place of the injured Siviwe Soyizwapi.
They also face formidable foes in Japan, England and Kenya in a very competitive Pool B of the tournament, but for Gans it all adds to the motivation of the individual and the squad.
Gans admits the scrapping of the quarter-finals will add an edge to the tournament and require a strong mindset from the players.
‘We are lucky in that we already have a system in place that does not look too far ahead – we believe in the first game on the first day and adjust from there.
‘It means we only focus on that first match, as that needs to lay the foundation for the remainder of the tournament. We are also not results driven, but rather believe that if we execute well and stay within our structures the result will look after itself. That will ease the pressure, no doubt.’
For Gans the responsibility of filling some big shoes comes with a feeling of pride.
‘I came into the team when Kyle Brown and then Philip Snyman were the captains and last year, Siviwe Soyizwapi took over,’ he said.
‘They are great people and great players and I learned a lot from them, on and off the field. It is big shoes to fill, but the examples set were great, so I know what to do.
‘I am very lucky to have some very experienced players around me. Branco du Preez and Chris Dry are the two most-capped Blitzboks ever and Cecil Afrika is the leading points-scorer of all time. And they are playing next to me this weekend. It will help a lot as I can focus on my role as a player without having to worry about the rest of the guys.’
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