The Blitzboks should make a flying start to this season’s World Rugby Sevens Series when they kick off their title defence in Dubai this weekend, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Over the course of the 2016-17 season, the Blitzboks emerged as the much-needed good news story in South African rugby as they dazzled their way to a first Sevens Series title since 2008-09.
During an unforgettable campaign, the Blitzboks reached all 10 Cup quarter-finals, while they claimed victory in five of the eight finals that they contested.
However, the Blitzboks have made no secret of the fact that they have now put that campaign behind them, with coach Neil Powell having acknowledged that the team cannot afford to rest on their laurels heading into a new season.
In fact, Powell has implored his experienced charges to lift their game to a new level as they expect to face renewed challenges from arch-rivals New Zealand and Fiji.
Notably, the Blitzboks have been able to assemble their most experienced squad ever, with stalwarts such as Kyle Brown, Kwagga Smith, Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla all returning to the sevens setup.
The likes of Senatla, Smith, Rosko Specman, Ruhan Nel and Werner Kok are now back with the Springboks Sevens after gaining some invaluable experience in the 15-man game, which will have made a significant improvement to their contact skills.
As it is, the Blitzboks have been boosted by the presence of a player such as Tim Agaba, who will also add some extra physical firepower to complement the pure pace of a supremely talented team.
‘The reality is that we will have a target on our backs this year,’ Powell admitted. ‘Being the defending champions, not only in the series, but also in Dubai. We need to keep on believing that we can maintain the standards we have set as a team.’
Beneficially for the Blitzboks, they will start their campaign with clashes against the relatively unheralded Uganda, Kenya and Canada on Friday, which should provide an opportunity to build some early momentum.
The Blitzboks have all the necessary components to launch another successful campaign, while the Dubai tournament will certainly provide compelling evidence as to how they cope with the pressure of performing as defending series champs.
Blitzboks pool matches (Friday, SA time):
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 29, 2017
Photo: Gallo Images