JOHANNESBURG - Philip Snyman and his BlitzBoks will be looking to make it six wins in Dubai this weekend when the 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series gets underway on Friday.
Dubai has certainly been a happy hunting ground for South Africa’s Sevens teams over the years, going back to 2003 when they won there for the first time.
Since then, they have picked up further winners’ medals in the Emirates in 2006, 2008, 2014 and last season - their first of five tournament wins last season.
They went on to win the series, and Snyman is hoping his team can get off to a similar good start this week.
“Dubai has always been good to us, we’ve prepared well, we’re excited and looking forward to the new season,” he said on the eve of the tournament.
“But this is also a new year and we’re all starting from scratch; even our squad, as experienced as we are, have new energy and vigour, like all the teams will have.”
Snyman is thus fully aware the BlitzBoks will have a target on their backs after dominating the series last season.
“A lot of the teams will be more settled this season as well, with not as many new faces and coaches as was the case 12 months ago when we started here.
“So, it’s definitely going to be tougher this time and we’re going to have to be at our best from the first game.”
The 47-tour-nament stalwart will lead the most experienced Sevens team yet assembled by South Africa, including world renowned stars Chris Dry, Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika, Justin Geduld, Werner Kok, Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla and more recent stars Tim Agaba, Ruhan Nel and Rosko Specman.
Snyman said that while it was great rocking up in Dubai as series champions, all that has gone before is now in the past.
“We left last season behind us when we started our pre-season camp and that was some time ago now. We needed to make that mind shift. The focus now is firmly on our first match and then we’ll look to what comes next.”
The BlitzBoks open their season - and tournament - with a match against Uganda on Friday morning (8.52am), a match they shouldn’t have too many problems winning, and follow up with a clash with the unpredictable Kenya (12.36pm) and end day with an outing against tricky Canada (5.53pm).
The Blitzboks other tournaments won last year included Wellington, Sydney, Las Vegas and Paris. They were also runners-up on three other occasions, including in Cape Town.