Branco du Preez is excited to be back in the Blitzboks squad for the Australasian leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series after missing out in Dubai and Cape Town.
After 71 tournaments, Du Preez showed no reluctance in boarding another intercontinental flight to yet another tournament on the other side of the world.
Du Preez and his Blitzboks teammates departed Cape Town for New Zealand over this past weekend, with the third stop on the World Series set to take place on 25 and 26 January in Hamilton.
The 29-year-old, who is the most experienced Blitzbok of all time, was all smiles and buzzing as the team left South Africa on Saturday.
‘Very excited to be part of the squad again, having missed the opening two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town,’ said Du Preez.
The Blitzboks won the season-opener in Dubai and were losing finalists at their home tournament in Cape Town a week later to share the lead on the log table with New Zealand, and Du Preez indicated that they are keen to continue that form.
‘We started well in the past and managed to maintain that form, and that helped us to perform well in the World Series,’ said the Blitzbok sweeper.
‘From that perspective, two very important tournaments await us, with Sydney following a week after Hamilton. Good performances will stack up the points and that is what you are playing for, after all.’
Du Preez added that the squad would not get too far ahead of themselves and that their focus remained on the opening pool game against Japan.
‘Past experiences have shown that if we stick to what we want to achieve and trust our structures, the result looks after itself,’ said Du Preez. ‘So, we are preparing for game one, day one, and making sure that through that performance we lay the foundation for us.’
The format for the tournament in Hamilton has changed, with no quarter-finals taking place and only the four pool winners going into the Cup semi-finals. For Du Preez and the Blitzboks, that does not change their attitude, despite the cut-throat reality of matches against England and Kenya later in the pool.
‘We always aim to top our pool anyway, so nothing will really change in that regard,’ said Du Preez. ‘The pressure will be high as you cannot afford to drop a match, but we prepared well and will be ready to confront that.’
The squad will be led by Stedman Gans, with Siviwe Soyizwapi out injured.
‘He has the attributes to do well,’ said Du Preez of Gans. ‘We are an experienced squad with a lot of senior players and all of us will support Stedman where needed.’
Chris Dry [70 tournaments], Cecil Afrika , Justin Geduld  and Werner Kok  are all highly experienced stalwarts and will provide cool heads and proven ability.
Kok and Afrika, like Du Preez, makes a first appearance in the World Series, as will Muller du Plessis, Angelo Davids and Gans.
‘Those guys are very keen to go out and do the business,’ said Du Preez. ‘We love playing for each other, for our families and for our country and the knowledge that those opportunities are on the doorstep will make any long-haul flight a pretty short one.’
Photo: Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images