Johannesburg – The Springbok Sevens face a daunting task at the Glasgow Sevens this weekend, and their performance in Scotland will have a significant effect on their ambition to challenge log leaders New Zealand for the World Series crown.
The Blitzboks are currently seven points behind pace-setters New Zealand, and must at least reach the final at either Glasgow or next week's London Sevens – the only remaining legs on the circuit – to keep their World Series title ambitions alive.
The team, however, faces a difficult pool assignment on Saturday, with clashes lined up against Portugal, Samoa, and New Zealand.
Despite this – and the absence of two of their most influential players, captain Kyle Brown and attacking dynamo Cecil Afrika – the South Africans are still ranked as one of the favourites to win in Glasgow.
Brown is recovering from the concussion he suffered in Hong Kong, while Afrika sustained a groin strain at the same tournament.
Mark Richards makes a welcome return to the squad after last featuring for the Springbok Sevens at the Gold Coast last September, while Shaun Adendorff will make his debut for the Blitzboks.
Adendorff was one of the stars of the South Africa Under-20 team that won the 2012 Junior World Championship (JWC) title.
Wing Seabelo Senatla is also seeking to regain the top form of last season, which saw him feature in starring roles for the Junior Springboks at the 2013 JWC in France and the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow.
Senatla was chosen for the Glasgow Sevens Dream Team last year, after the South Africans won the tournament, and nothing will offer him greater satisfaction than to help the team perform well this weekend in Scotland.
“Personally, I am not quite where I want to be yet in terms of my performance,” Senatla said.
“However, this weekend is all about the team and what we as players can do to make this team advance as far as possible.”
Stand-in skipper Frankie Horne conceded it would be a tough task to overtake New Zealand at the top of the log table with just two tournaments remaining.
Horne said the team would not get carried away by the hype around their tussle with New Zealand for the World Series title, despite the Springbok Sevens' impressive overall record in the United Kingdom.
“The reality is that we will have to win the two remaining tournaments to stay in the hunt for the World Series title,” said Horne, who will be playing in his 58th consecutive World Series tournament.
“However, having said that, we will not get ahead of ourselves, or allow ourselves to get carried away.”
The team has emphasised the need to be consistent throughout the season and to reach the semi-finals at every tournament.
“For us, it's all about ticking the boxes in terms of the goals that we've set for ourselves as a team,” he said.
“So the guys will be really focused on the first match, and then look to achieve our goals for the first day.”
South Africa will take on Portugal in their opening encounter, followed by clashes against Samoa and series leaders New Zealand in what is expected to be the match-up of the day.
Springbok Sevens squad: Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Frankie Horne (captain), Jamba Ulengo, Werner Kok, Shaun Adendorff, Branco du Preez, Stephan Dippenaar, Justin Geduld, Mark Richards, Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla. – Sapa