CAPE TOWN - There are a lot of things to look forward to at the Cape Town Sevens this weekend. A lot. And for Springbok Sevens playmaker Cecil Afrika, running out in front of his home crowd is one of the biggest positives.
If the fact that tickets for the Cape Town spectacle were sold out so quickly (and the last-minute hustle to get one) doesn’t say enough about the fans, then the atmosphere they created during last year’s event certainly should.
And this weekend, Afrika is expecting that crowd to “pull them through”.
“It’s the highlight of our stops, the crowd carries us through, and I’d like to say thank you to everybody who bought a ticket to come and support us. It’s always nice to have people there pulling you through, and I believe they will create a great atmosphere for us this weekend,” Afrika said.
The flyhalf also said that the excitement of playing at home is building in the Blitzboks camp, and added that there was a calmer vibe during Tuesday's training session.
“It was a good weekend in Dubai in terms of results, but I also think there are a lot of things we can improve (on) as a team,” Afrika said.
“We have this week to fix it, and the guys were a lot more relaxed (on Tuesday). There’s excitement in the camp and the guys are looking forward to playing good rugby this weekend.”
Playing in front of your home crowd of course has a lot of positives. But it also comes with added pressure. And Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman plans to use that pressure to his advantage in Cape Town.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Blitzboks will look to use every bit of momentum they gained by winning the opening leg of the World Sevens Series, but Snyman also made it clear that floating on the cloud of their first victory of the 2017-18 season could be detrimental to their success going forward.
Today’s captains shoot was pretty special— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) December 5, 2017
Pool A: RSA/FRA/RUS/KEN
Pool B: NZL/AUS/ESP/USA
Pool C: ENG/SCO/ARG/UGA
Pool D: FIJ/SAM/CAN/WAL pic.twitter.com/momG6TT7lC
“There is a bit of pressure (being the hosts). You only get one chance a year to play in front of your home crowd, and you can use that to your advantage,” Snyman said. “To run out in front of 60 000 and seeing the South African flags and knowing there’s more fans at home - you can use that pressure as something positive.”
“I think it gave us a lot of confidence and good momentum (winning in Dubai). In the past we’ve seen that if you start a tournament well you get a head start on the log. But we also have to put that victory behind us because this week is going to bring its own challenges and different teams, and if you remain fixated on (that) you’ll stay in the same place while everyone else moves forward.”
With only a couple of weeks of training together ahead of the opening leg, it’s understandable that a bit of rustiness would pop up here and there during the first few matches of the first leg of the season.
So there might be a few things that need fixing, but Snyman said he is looking forward to seeing how the team can go once they fully get back into the swing of things.
“Everyone went to go play fifteens, in the off-season there were only five of us at training. Uganda came for us and we realised that we’re going to have to be at our best in every game from here on,” Snyman said.
“We want to be at our best, so we know there’s still work to do. We got a bit of our rhythm back towards the end of the Dubai tournament, but I think there’s still quite a few things that we can work on. And if we can fix one or two things this weekend, we can do even better.”
"A packed Cape Town Stadium and sell-out crowd do give us extra legs and the @Blitzboks are determined to reward the South African faithful with a commanding performance at the forthcoming @CapeTown7s this weekend." - @snymanphilip @SteinhoffRugby @ASICS_ZA #nextlevel7s pic.twitter.com/i7r6fxWH58— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) December 5, 2017