SA gun for maiden Hong Kong title

Coach Neil Powell is expecting a strong performance from the Blitzboks as they go in search of their first title at the Hong Kong Sevens.

Powell's men have contested all six finals so far this season, with a return of four Cup wins and two runners-up medals.

The South Africans have never won the Hong Kong tournament. However, the coach believes that the intensity at training this week points to his team being switched on for the task at hand.

'I am happy with our preparation. All 13 players on the field have been working hard,' he said. 'We had to nurse some of the guys back to fitness in Stellenbosch in order to get them here, but there was no sign of slacking on the field, so I am pleased with the intensity, as that is always a good sign.'

He openly acknowledged that the Blitzboks' Hong Kong record was not good in comparison with Fiji and New Zealand.

'Fiji and New Zealand tend to lift themselves when playing here, so we will have to be at our very best if we want to compete,' Powell admitted.

'We never want to make Hong Kong bigger than it is and with all the focus on getting the injured guys back and managing them, we almost forgot which tournament it was we are preparing for, so we arrived without the hype this time.'

Four of the 13 squad members will feature at the Hong Kong event for the first time. Dylan Sage did not make the trip there last year, while Stedman Gans and Zane Davids only recently started playing for the Blitzboks. Selwyn Davids will make his debut this week.  

'The youngsters are improving all the time,' said Powell. 'They will make mistakes, but that is part of the growth of any player. I am pleased how they progressed, they now need some playing time on the field. We have a balanced side, with a number of stalwarts and some exciting talent coming off the bench, so we are hoping to again give a good account of ourselves.'
Powell was also full of praise for stalwart Cecil Afrika, who will be playing in his 50th tournament.
'Cecil understands this game. He is a strong leader and few players deserve this more than Cecil. Maybe we can also reward him with a tournament win, like we did with Branco du Preez in Las Vegas.'
Blitzboks – Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, Werner Kok, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Branco du Preez, Tim Agaba, Selvyn Davids, Cecil Afrika, Stedman Gans, Ruhan Nel, Ryan Oosthuizen (reserve).

Photo: @Blitzboks/Twitter

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Mariette Adams