From left, Pool A captains John Moonlight (Canada), Oscar Ayodi (Kenya), Philip Snyman (South Africa) and Eric Kasiita (Uganda) pose with the Dubai Sevens trophy. Photo: Roger Sedres/ImageSA
From left, Pool A captains John Moonlight (Canada), Oscar Ayodi (Kenya), Philip Snyman (South Africa) and Eric Kasiita (Uganda) pose with the Dubai Sevens trophy. Photo: Roger Sedres/ImageSA
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell will hope that his team gets off to a good start at the Dubai Sevens on Friday. Photo: Roger Sedres/ImageSA
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell will hope that his team gets off to a good start at the Dubai Sevens on Friday. Photo: Roger Sedres/ImageSA

The Blitzboks take their first steps on Friday to what will hopefully be a successful 2018 when they get the defence of their Dubai Sevens title they won last year under way.

Neil Powell’s men won in the Emirates a year ago – for their fifth title in Dubai – and another victory this weekend will set them up for another good season after they bagged the World Sevens Series honours for the 2016/17 season.

But it’s not only this weekend’s Dubai tournament and the overall competition that Powell and Co will be hunting this week and in the coming months, but a few far bigger and more prestigious titles.

Next year will also see the Commonwealth Games being staged as well as the Sevens World Cup – events the Blitzboks will desperately want to win.

In fact, they did win gold at the Commonwealth Games last time out.

So, there’s a big few months ahead for Powell and his men, who’ll certainly have a big target on their backs after their stunning showing in the series last season.

“We are aiming to be successful in all three,” admitted Powell ahead of Friday’s start in pool play in Dubai.

“Each of those (tournaments) will have unique challanges, so we will have to treat each on their own merits. It all starts here in Dubai and it’s definitely first things first, to do well here this weekend.”

Powell has assembled the most experienced squad for the first tournament of the new season, among them Cecil Afrika, Kyle Brown, Werner Kok, Rosko Specman, Branco du Preez... the list goes on.

And he’s likely to use all of these men, and a good few more who are playing for the Academy team this weekend, over the course of the coming year.

“It is a long season and we have planned accordingly. We’ll look to rotate players throughout the year so everyone stays fresh for each of the challenges coming up,” he said.

The Blitzboks, like all sporting teams, thrive on confidence and momentum, and Powell’s men will hope for a good and fast start this weekend at a venue that has treated them well in the past.

“A strong start here will give the boys confidence and momentum going into the next one, our home tournament in Cape Town next weekend, so we’ll be looking to build a solid foundation here.

“It will be a bonus for us if we achieve the results, with the focus mainly on the way we want to play and execute.

“We prepared well and the guys look hungry. I am a bit nervous myself, but perhaps that is a good thing.”

The Blitzboks open their account on Friday morning with a clash against Uganda (8.52am), and follow that up with further matches on day one against Kenya (12.36pm) and Canada (5.53pm).

Blitzbok Squad

Philip Snyman (captain), Chris Dry, Werner Kok, Rosko Specman, Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez, Tim Agaba, Kwagga Smith, Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Kyle Brown.

 

IOL Sport