The Blitzboks must continue to take their game to the next level at the PE Sevens this weekend, reports BRENTON CHELIN.
One of the most notable aspects of the Blitzboks' tournament success in Dubai was their ability to vary their game plan dependent on their opposition. Against New Zealand in the semi-final, Neil Powell's team competed ferociously at the breakdown and in the contact point, despite giving away a distinct size advantage to their opponents. The result was a commanding 28-0 victory over their nearest rivals.
The final brought with it a change of approach, as they opted to put boot to ball, with Seabelo Senatla's game-changing try coming courtesy of a well-weighted kick and some blistering pace. They must continue to innovate if they're to remain ahead of the chasing pack in Port Elizabeth.
Werner Kok, the Player of the Tournament in Dubai, will prove crucial to that task. Playing in just his 11th World Series tournament in Dubai, Kok showed himself another arrow in the Bok's quiver of attacking talent. Distinguished by his blond mop and boundless energy, Kok opened the weekend with a hat-trick against Portugal and played a pivotal role in the final two matches of the tournament.
'It's always great to get recognised for my individual performance, but I couldn't have done it without the team,' Kok told SARugbymag.co.za on his individual success. 'Their contribution makes my job a lot easier. If they don't give me the ball in space, then I wouldn't be able to make the same impact.'
The victory in Dubai lifted the Boks into second place on the World Series standings ahead of this weekend's home leg, where they are defending champions. They currently find themselves two points off the pace-setters, Fiji, but a win in Port Elizabeth will guarantee they finish the year on top of the standings.
'Having won in Dubai we'll have a big target on our back,' said Kok. 'But coming home, where we won last year, we know that expectation will be high. We'll do the same things that we did in Dubai and hopefully we'll get the same results.'
The tournament will be the last for players like Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla, who will return to their Super Rugby franchises at the beginning of 2015. With the top four teams in the World Series at the end of the nine tournament calendar set to gain automatic Olympic qualification, Kok believes the Blitzboks need to build on their strong start to the season.
'It is tragic that we're going to lose those players, but we have to take every tournament as it comes. There are guys in the academy that can come in and do the job. It will be a big loss, though, especially the hard work of Kwagga and the pace and stepping ability of Cheslin and Seabelo.
'We didn't have much time ahead of the Gold Coast tournament, so we spent that time getting our basics right. But this time around [ahead of the Dubai tournament], we had a little bit more time to focus on the small things, to develop our game a bit further and put the mistakes right.'
Perennial title challengers, New Zealand, find themselves slightly off the pace after their fourth-place finish in Dubai. Their run included a 28-0 humbling at the hands of the Boks, but Kok says that result is now in the past, and they expect New Zealand to come back strongly.
'It's always nice to beat them. They are a class team, but we stuck to the plans that we'd put together beforehand and it came off. It doesn't always come off that well.'
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images