Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell believes his team can be “10 to 15 percent better” in Cape Town this weekend if they manage to sharpen up in a few areas ahead of the second leg of the 2017/18 World Sevens Series.
It’s not uncommon for teams to try to “find each other” in the first few games of a new Series on the Sevens circuit, especially on Day One. And given the fact that the bulk of the Blitzboks team played Fifteens during their off-season, that missing rhythm can be expected.
Of course, saying the Blitzboks were completely out of tune in their opening concert would be ridiculous. After all, they did outperform all the other teams to claim the Dubai title for the second year in a row. And they put up a few superb shows in the process.
And Powell wants to do everything he can to make sure that his team are completely on song in front of their home crowd in the remaining days - today and tomorrow - they have to get everything in order.
“The first few days are always going to be just about getting the guys to recover,” Powell said at the Amphitheatre at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town yesterday.
“We had a regeneration session (earlier this week) just to get the blood flowing through the legs a bit again and to open up the lungs. Today (yesterday) we started to up the intensity a bit. Then we have two days left before the weekend.”
Getting the Series off to such a solid start was a big positive for the reigning champions, and Powell - who became the first person to win the World Sevens Series as both a player and a coach when the Blitzboks lifted the cup earlier this year - has credited a some of his team’s punch to their stints in the 15-man game, although there were a couple of Fifteens habits to work out.
“I think it’s a very good thing that the players were exposed to Fifteens. They picked up characteristics there that are going to help them a lot to be a better Sevens players. I think the only concern was if we would have enough time to get the guys Sevens fit,” he said.
“We needed to get them used to Sevens habits again. I think we were reasonably successful in doing that. But we’re not there yet, we can get 10 to 15 percent better than what we were the weekend.”
“I think a lot of people saw it (Blitzboks playing Fifteens) as a negative as we could have picked up a lot of injuries, but no one returned with serious injuries. But I think we’ve been really blessed.”
Powell added that although physicality is an area that his team definitely improved in thanks to their Fifteens involvement, he added that there were a couple of other traits they also learnt.
“There are a lot of good things they picked up in the Fifteens set-up, and one of the biggest is physicality. In Fifteens there’s much less space and you have big forwards running at you, so I think that helped them a lot. “I think we got better rugby players back.”