JOHANNESBURG – The BlitzBoks could provide the cherry on the top of a superb 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games if they successfully defend their title from four years ago.
The South African Sevens side will kick off their campaign on Saturday where they will Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Scotland.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens team will be making history on Friday when they run out onto the field for the first ever Rugby Sevens Women’s tournament at the Commonwealth Games.
BlitzBoks coach Neil Powell the team would not only be going after their second consecutive gold medal at the quadrennial showpiece but use it as a dry-run for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“We are not only hoping to win the gold medal again, we are also using this opportunity to align with the multi-coded aspect of the games,” Powell said. “We are already planning the next Olympic Games, in 2020, and see this as a trial run towards that.
“We made some mistakes in this regard leading up to Rio 2016 and want to make sure it does not happen again.”
Powell suffered an early setback after Ryan Oosthuizen was forced to withdraw from the Games due to a hamstring injury with Selvyn Davids receiving a call up.
The national coach had to strike a delicate balance Games success without jeopardising the resto of their season which includes the chase for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title and preparing the squad for the Rugby World Cup Sevens later this year.
“It is a challenging year with three main events and the key will be on how we manage the players through the season,” Powell said.
“We needed to plan properly, with the importance being the well-being of the players. That was one of the reasons why we had a young team in Hong Kong last week, for example.”
The women’s side will have a baptism of fire when they take on Canada and New Zealand, who are both ranked in the top three in the world, on the first day of the tournament. They will face Kenya in their final pool match on Saturday.
Springbok Women's Sevens coach Paul Delport said the team needed to make the step up at this level to prove that they belong at a higher level.
“We are playing with the Springbok on our chests and that means a lot, but the reality of our situation is that we are a second-tier team in the women's game,” Delport said.
“This is why our participation here creates a wonderful opportunity to get more women into the game.
“We will be hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games and create a pathway through sevens for women wanting to go to the Olympics and represent their country.”