Cape Town – The Blitzboks edged closer to automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics in Hong Kong last weekend, and now they need to make a giant leap in that regard at the Singapore Sevens over Easter.
The Springbok Sevens were knocked out of the Cup competition in the quarter-finals by Fiji, while New Zealand went on to win the title to increase their lead to 21 points on the World Sevens Series standings with 142, with Argentina on 121.
The Blitzboks lost their fifth-place playoff to the Argentinians in Hong Kong, but gained 12 points and moved up to fifth position on the standings with three tournaments to go – with the top four teams qualifying automatically for next year’s Olympics.
They have lost stalwart forward Zain Davids (broken hand) for Singapore, and he was replaced by Boland speedster Jaiden Baron, who is known as ‘Die Wind’ (The Wind).
Blitzbok sweeper Shaun Williams said on Wednesday that Baron can make a positive difference to the team this weekend.
“It is always a pity to lose anyone to injury, and Zain was a rock for us over many seasons, so we wish him well in his recovery,” Williams said.
“Jaiden is so fast off the mark and brings new energy with him, so that is great. The younger guys do have the freedom to express themselves in the team, and if everyone does that while executing their roles in the team, we tend to play well.
“The message to the new guys is to go out and express yourself, and learn from your mistakes.
“We had a lot of new guys coming into the squad and that did not make things easier, but the nice thing about the new players at every tournament is that we all know how talented they are and what they can do for the squad.”
The South Africans have been drawn in Pool A for the Singapore event that starts on Saturday, where they will take on New Zealand (11.28am SA time) in the group stages for the second week in a row.
They lost 12-7 to the log leaders in Hong Kong in a hard-fought encounter, with the score locked at 7-7 at halftime, and coach Sandile Ngcobo will hope that they can pull off a victory in what may be a pool decider.
First up on Saturday will be Australia (4.14am), who trail the Blitzboks by just two points on the log on 99, followed by Hong Kong (7.40am).
The top two teams in Pool A will face their counterparts from Pool D in the Cup quarter-finals, who are likely to be Argentina and Great Britain.
“We certainly try to be better every tournament. In Hong Kong, we had some good moments on the field, and we showed some good urgency, although the results did not go our way. The weather did not make things easier either,” Williams said.
“But that is behind us now, and we are ready for Singapore. It has been hot and humid since we arrived, so the conditions are different from last week, and we hope the outcome will be as well.”