IN an ideal world Blitzbokke coach Neil Powell would sleep easy knowing that his team could put to bed the contest for the Sevens world series title ahead of the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the series.
In fact, Hong Kong and Singapore could be the golden path to their coronation as world champions and that would be with all his crown princes leading from the front in a season where they have been undoubtedly the dominant side.
However, that ideal world only exists in the Blitzbokke’s dream world as reality dictates that they will go into the Hong Kong tournament without some of their most influential stars and a greater monkey on their back to shake off of not having won the tournament.
Powell always knew that he was going to have to play most of the season without star players Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith but untimely injuries to Kyle Brown, Justin Geduld and the in-form Rosko Specman have put paid to any ideas of ensuring that the Asian leg of the series secures them their second world title.
The Blitzbokke played themselves into the reckoning to become world champions by winning four of the six tournaments played so far but have somewhat lost some of that killer instinct and ability to put teams away with ease that they enjoyed earlier in the season without their injured stars.
However, Powell still possesses a potent squad with the likes of former World Sevens Player of the Year Werner Kok, in-form forward Chris Dry, Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika, Siviwe Soyizwaphi, Philip Snyman and now recovered Tim Agaba part of the squad.
As inexperienced as some of the squad members may be in Stedman Gans, Ryan Oosthuizen and Selvyn Davids, Powell takes some comfort that he has worked with the players since last year as part of the academy in Stellenbosch.
“I don’t think we had the ideal preparations for Hong Kong because of the many players we had to manage to get on the plane but we always say that if we wait for the perfect circumstances and perfect preparations you are going to wait forever to be successful,” he said.
“We are going to go out there and make it happen. I’m very happy with the squad, still a lot of quality players there and one or two new guys that are coming into the system. The new guys have been part of our system since November so I am happy that they have the fundamentals and they know what their roles are in the system.”
Over and above having to contend with the unenviable history of never having won in Hong Kong, Powell wants his team to focus on doing well in their pool where they will face France, Kenya and Canada ahead of an even more trickier quarterfinal draw against a pool that features Fiji and New Zealand.
“It will be a challenging pool with France, Kenya and Canada and a tough cross over with Fiji and New Zealand so we’ll have to make sure that we are up for every single game,” Powell said.
The weekend’s tournament in Hong Kong will also be Afrika’s 50th in the Green and Gold and there will be added pressure on the side to do well for one of its stalwarts and the man who holds the record for the most points scored for the national team.