Blitzboks have to hit the ground running in World Sevens Series opener in Dubai, says Neil Powell
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Cape Town — Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has emphasised the importance of getting off to a strong start in the opening leg of the 2022 World Sevens Series in Dubai.
The Blitzboks won the shortened 2021 Series, which consisted of only tournaments in Canada.
Now, after their success in Edmonton and Vancouver,where they were unbeaten, Powell’s men will be looking to make full use of that momentum as they head into a jam-packed Sevens calendar.
The South Africans’ first match on Friday will see them taking on Ireland, followed by their other two Pool C matches against Japan and Great Britain.
The group will be without wing Angelo Davids, who is still recovering from the hand fracture he picked up in Canada. In the final of the Vancouver event against Kenya, Davids set a new individual try-scoring record as he ran in 10 tries.
Four other players who featured in Canada were also ruled out, but the Blitzboks will be boosted by the presence of experienced duo of Branco du Preez and Impi Visser.
If the Blitzboks enjoy a clean sweep of wins in the pool stages and then win their quarter-final, they’ll match their best ever World Series winning streak of 16 matches, set between 2008-09.
While Powell said that this week felt like a short one, he is happy with what they fitted in.
“We had a good week here, although we we’ve done most of our preparation work in Stellenbosch,” said Powell.
“So, it was a case of fine-tuning to make sure everyone are on the same page and that the guys are ready to get going.”
The Blitzboks have included two uncapped players in Tiaan Pretorius (forward) and Shilton van Wyk (outside back), and Powell is looking forward to the two newcomers getting their first taste of World Series action.
“They’ve been training with us for the last 18 months, so they know what is expected of them,” said Powell.
“Shilton is a very elusive runner and I think if he gets ball in hand, he will surprise a few people with his speed and his evasive skills. He showed some of that in the recent tournament against Kenya and Uganda and if he gets his opportunity I think he will do well.
“Tiaan is a hard worker and has good aerial skills, so I’m looking forward to giving the two of them their first caps and to see how they go.”
With a Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup looming at the end of a packed season, Powell underlined the importance of starting strongly.
“It’s a long season and we are starting off with a tough game against Ireland, who is a very structured team, so it will be important to start well,” said Powell.
“We’ve done proper analysis on them to make sure we know what we up against. If we don’t do well in terms of our effort and (the) implementation of our roles on the field, then we could find ourselves in trouble.”
The women’s final will take place at 16h56 on Saturday, followed by the men’s final at 17h26 (SA times).
The Blitzboks’ opening day fixtures (SA kick-off times):
07h32: Blitzboks v Ireland
11h24: Blitzboks v Japan
14h40: Blitzboks v Great Britain
The Springbok Sevens squad for the two World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Dubai:
1. Christie Grobbelaar 2. Ryan Oosthuizen 3. Impi Visser 4. Zain Davids 5. Tiaan Pretorius 6. JC Pretorius 7. Branco du Preez 8. Selvyn Davids 9. Shaun Williams 10. Ronald Brown 11. Siviwe Soyizwapi 12. Muller du Plessis 13. Shilton van Wyk.