Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says his team is ready to get the 2018 of to a good start. Photo: Raghavan Venugopal/www.photosport.nz

After a long and victorious 2016-17 season, the Blitzboks were thrown back in the mix with a brand new target on their backs in the Sevens World Series which began in Dubai last November.

Cape Town soon followed, where the Blitzboks fell short while not looking their best, as a home-leg victory continued to evade them.

Coach Neil Powell admitted back then that their poor performance in December seemed to be a mental problem, and was perhaps a result of a bit of fatigue carrying over from last season.

Now however, back at it in the new year, with the Sydney Sevens beginning on Friday with a game against Papua New Guinea, the Blitzboks are looking refreshed and ready to go, according to their coach.

“We looked back at what went wrong in Cape Town and it seemed to be a mental thing,” said Powell. “We had some technical mishaps, but I think the long 2017 season got to the players.

“That said, the rest did wonders for all of them and I could feel the intensity and vibe in the air in the last week or so.”

There is a long season still ahead of the defending World Series champions, made even longer by the fact that they will be back in Sydney in mid April for a different sort of challenge.

“We see this tournament as a bit of a trial run for the Commonwealth Games as well, so we want to go out there and measure ourselves against the best in the world,” added Powell.

There has been a lot of planning from Powell and his staff as they ready their highly-developed athletes for the rigours of this latest leg. Sydney is a special tournament, not only because it is played over three days, but because the Blitzboks are the defending champions.

“The three-day tournaments are a bit different from the normal ones on the circuit and this Sydney tournament does have a bit of a Hong Kong Sevens feel to it due to the fact that it is played over three days,” said Powell.

Planning for this leg began a bit earlier for the South Africans as they factored in travel fatigue that can easily occur when travelling so far east.

“We arrived a bit earlier than normal because of the longer tournament," Powell said. “It is not the easiest thing to travel to Australia and New Zealand from South Africa as it does take a day or two to get back into the flow of things."

The South Africans play Papua New Guinea tomorrow, then take on Spain and England in the rest of their pool games the following day, ahead of Sunday's knockout matches.


Cape Argus

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