CAPE TOWN – The Blitzboks need to make a statement this weekend, and they need to do so in their very first game tomorrow.
Those are the words of experienced Blitzbok Branco du Preez.
The Blitzboks have been grouped in Pool A with New Zealand, Samoa and Zimbabwe for the Cape Town leg of the World Sevens Series after their sixth-place finish in Dubai.
They fell out of Cup contention against England in the quarters last weekend, before beating Scotland 29-0 to book their fifth-place play-off against Fiji. It was a game the Blitzboks lost in an extra-time thriller.
While Du Preez said they have to put what happened in Dubai behind them, he raised a number of things they need to do differently at Cape Town Stadium.
“We were not at our best, but that is in the past now. This weekend in Cape Town is all that matters. We are expecting good support and we hope to give the Blitzboks supporters something to cheer about,” he said.
The Blitzboks will meet Dubai champions New Zealand in their last Pool game tomorrow, and while Du Preez said they won't underestimate Zimbabwe and Samoa, he highlighted the importance of defence.
“They are playing a very basic game plan and limit their mistakes. They are also very patient on attack and only strike when they see the defence is stretching. So we need to make sure we make dominant tackles against them in order to throw them off their rhythm on attack.”
“We respect all teams and will not look past our first two opponents,” said Du Preez. “We want to make a statement this weekend and that will start in the first game on Saturday.”
Werner Kok agreed with Du Preez, and also said that they won't be wearing the favourites tag after what happened in the opening tournament.
In Dubai, the USA took second place, with England, Australia and Fiji filling the third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
“This will be a huge weekend for us. In a way, we are not the favourites, although the crowd will expect us to do well. The likes of New Zealand, Australia, USA and England will be favourites after Dubai.”
Kok, who has played 190 matches for the Blitzboks and scored 87 tries, feels a strong defensive effort from his side could tip the scales in their favour.
“We need to defend better. We slipped off too many tackles in Dubai, it is as simple as that,” said Kok.