South Africa proved to be too powerful for any opposition in Dubai last weekend, sealing the Cup and giving themselves some much deserved points heading into the PE leg of the World Series, but the Blitzbokke can’t rest on their laurels on their home turf this weekend.
That display in Dubai enabled South Africa to move two places up the World Series log standings into second place where they are now just two points behind leaders Fiji, who lead with 39 points.
Firstly South Africa’s victory is a good thing for their home tournament in PE this week, as the crowds will be sure to come in their numbers. The Blitzbokke were very clinical, especially against New Zealand. Neil Powell is a shrewd coach and he has moulded a fantastic team here and has mixed them well. He used his bench, and captain Kyle Brown didn’t even start one game. He is being eased back from injury but was so effective coming in in the way he did. The key was that they were competitive at the breakdown despite not being a big team, but they have electric pace, and there is no substitute for that.
At times, however, they were quite ordinary on day one in Dubai. They surrendered more possession than most teams on day one if you look at the statistics, but their accuracy rate was so much better on day two and they really stepped up their game. Sevens is about accuracy as much as it is about courage and pace, and they got it spot on to win.
Fans might remember last year when Nelson Mandela passed away while the Series was in Port Elizabeth and there was a big thing at our tournament. South Africa played for him and were victorious so this year will mark the anniversary and the hosts now are not only defending champions, but come in as the favourites.
In naming an unchanged squad, Powell said the decision was easy after their success last weekend.
“The players all deserve to be in the squad after that performance in Dubai. Every World Series tournament is an extremely tough and demanding event and there is no room for complacency,” cautioned Powell.
He added: “It is wonderful for the squad to play on home soil, in front of our own supporters. The players have really enjoyed their stay in the City and the support we have received so far is fantastic. We hope to make them proud again this weekend.”
An added element of pressure will see the top four teams on the final log standings at the end of the nine-tournament World Series will qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Several Blitzboks will surpass some unique milestones this weekend. Playmaker Cecil Afrika needs just 12 more points to better the all-time points scoring record of 925 held by Blitzboks legend Fabian Juries.
Branco du Preez will play in his 35th tournament this weekend, which places him on the SA Sevens honours board alongside the likes of Juries, Marius Schoeman, Mzwandile Stick and Frankie Horne.
South Africa are the top seeds in Pool A and will battle it out for a group qualification place against Wales, the USA and Kenya.