Blitzboks captain Philip Snyman (left), pictured with coach Neil Powell, will play in his third RWC Sevens tournament next weekend. Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
CAPE TOWN 
 While Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell believes their momentum from winning back-to-back World Sevens Series titles might be lost, it’s their preparation that he reckons will boost their confidence levels ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco next week.

The Blitzboks lifted the World Series cup in Paris a little over a month ago, so it would be natural to think that success on the popular circuit would inject some confidence into the squad as they prepare for the spectacle in the USA.

But after spending some time in Johannesburg and Mossel Bay  where they fine-tuned their World Cup preparations  Powell said that the work they put in there will be a “big factor” next weekend.

“I think so much time has passed that we almost feel like we have to build momentum from scratch,” Powell said.

“We always say that we get our confidence from training sessions, and I think our preparation will be a big factor. We’re relatively happy with how it went and I think it was a very good decision for us to go to Johannesburg and Mossel Bay. Hopefully we can have another good week in San Francisco.”

A strong start will be absolutely crucial at the 2018 edition of the World Cup, which will see the competition played in a knock-out only format (teams can get knocked out as early as their first game, if they lose).

The Blitzboks will face either Ireland or Chile - who will go up against each other earlier in the day - on Friday night.

Thanks to the format, it goes without saying that the pressure will be on at AT & T Park, and Powell is expecting it to be more of a "psychological challenge”.

“It’s a different format to what we’re used to, it’s straight knock-out from the first match and then (if you lose) there’s no way to get back into the Cup,” Powell said.

“I think we’ll have to make sure that we have a bit of momentum and confidence before we start that game. Ireland showed very good form in London by beating a strong England team at Twickenham in the third and fourth place play-offs. They have the ability to beat any good team on the day. So it’s important that we go into that first game with confidence, whether we play Ireland or Chile.

“I think this is going to be much more of a psychological challenge than a physical one. The fact that we only play at quarter to nine on Friday night makes it a very long day.

“We’re planning on doing something the Friday morning that will simulate that first-round just to get the guys out and take the ball through the hands and get the intensity up.”

Powell also explained the importance of going for balance in terms of his selections.

“You only have 12 players, so if you get any injuries you’ll just have to play with one or two fewer players. In the World Series you have a 13th player and you can bring him in as soon as you get an injury, but unfortunately you don’t have that advantage in the World Cup.

“I think that makes it important to select a team with a good balance so that if we do get an injury then we have a specialist who can provide back-up. So that’s why we went for two sweepers and two flyhalves.”

The Melrose Cup is the only Sevens silverware that has sidestepped the Blitzboks  who have won the World Sevens Series three times and also claimed gold at the 2014 Commomwealth Games in Glasgow, as well as bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

But despite their success, Powell wants his team to grab the opportunity to write their own story.

“We have to write our story from scratch. We can’t rely on any success or failure we had in the past. It’s my first World Cup as a coach and I think this one will be very different due to the format.

"We have the chance to write our own story.”


Weekend Argus

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