DURBAN – The Springbok Sevens team have the remarkable record of finishing in the top four of all nine tournaments played thus far in the World Series, and they would dearly like to make that 10 out of 10 by at least making the semi-finals of this weekend’s Paris Sevens, the final leg of the series.
“We have standards which we are proud of and it is up to us to make sure we maintain them this weekend,” said Blitzbok coach Neil Powell. “Our aims in Paris are clear – we want to leave nothing out there, bring the energy, keep the focus and trust the process.
“We are also proud of our consistency. It was great to reach nine semi-finals out of nine, but this is the final hurdle for us. We need to go out and make it happen, no one is going to do it for us.”
Powell often urges his troops to play with a smile on their faces, and their performances this season have done the same to their ever-growing fan-base. Those smiles will be even broader if the Blitzboks manage to defend their Paris title and in the process retain the World Series crown.
The South Africans trail Fiji by seven points, and can still win the series if they are victorious in Paris and the Fijians fail to reach the semi-finals. That mission for the Blitzboks starts in Pool B against Scotland on Saturday morning (10.06am), followed by matches against Russia and Canada.
“It is a tough pool, and we will have to play well to make it to the quarter-finals,” said Powell. “Knowing the Scottish and their character, they will be coming for us. They did not play well in London (last weekend), so they will be determined to improve on that showing. Russia play good basic rugby and beat Scotland last weekend.
“The last one against Canada will be very physical. They are capable of beating any of the teams on their day.”
The Blitzboks suffered a late injury setback when Stedman Gans broke his hand in training on Thursday and had to be replaced in the Paris Sevens squad. Ironically, Gans travelled from South Africa as the reserve player and replaced Cecil Afrika on day two of the London Sevens.
He was made official for the Paris event, with Mfundo Ndhlovu joining the Blitzboks as the 13th player.
With Gans ruled out, Ndhlovu will be part of the 12-man squad. Rhyno Smith, who made his sole appearance for the Blitzboks in Hong Kong this year, will join the squad as the official reserve.
“Sadly, Stedman is missing out after doing well in London. Mfundo is one of the most exciting players in the squad and he will also be keen to grab this opportunity.”
10.06am: South Africa v Scotland
1.02pm: South Africa v Russia
6.30pm: South Africa v Canada