Springbok Sevens captains: Philip Snyman and Zintle Mpupha in San Francisco. Photo: @Springboks on Twitter

SAN FRANCISCO – South Africa captain Philip Snyman said his team will need to hit the ground running as they launch their quest to claim a first World Cup Sevens crown in San Francisco on Friday. 

The South Africans start the tournament installed as top seeds after another successful season on World Rugby's International Sevens Circuit, where they snatched the overall crown in the final game of the season at the Paris Sevens.

However, despite their top seeding, the Blitzboks have everything to prove when this weekend's 24-team tournament kicks off at AT&T Park, the spectacular waterfront home of baseball's San Francisco Giants.

Snyman said the straight knockout format being introduced at this year's event, rather than the traditional round-robin group phase, leaves teams with little margin for error.

“There's a mental switch we have to make to get out of the blocks as quickly as possible,” Snyman told AFP. 

“Because if you make a slow start you might end up losing your first game. All it takes is for one mistake and you could be going home. So making a fast start is our main focus. 

“If we get that right, we can be successful.” 

South Africa have never won a seven-a-side World Cup, with their only appearance coming in the 1997 final, when a side led by the late, great Joost van der Westhuizen was beaten 24-21 by a Waisale Serevi-inspired Fiji.

The South Africans can expect another ferocious challenge from the Fijians, who have strengthened their squad with the addition of France-based stars Leone Nakarawa and rugby league convert Semi Radradra.

Snyman, however, says South Africa are not looking past their first-round opponents, who will be either Ireland or Chile.

“There's a lot of teams that can go all the way,” Snyman said. “New Zealand are strong and then Fiji showed in the series they have talent. But we're not going to add extra pressure to ourselves. We're just looking at that first game. 

“Whether it's Ireland or Chile, we need to get over that first hurdle to be sure.” 

The 31-year-old is quietly determined to improve South Africa's World Cup Sevens record, however, after twice reaching the quarter-finals in 2009 and 2013.

“At the beginning of the season we set goals for ourselves and winning the World Cup was definitely one of those goals this year,” Snyman said. 

“In the previous two World Cups that I've been a part of, we managed to play in two quarter-finals. We want to show that we can compete in a one-off tournament like this World Cup. I believe we can be successful.”

Agence France-Presse (AFP)