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No coronation for Blitzboks in London

By Craig Ray | 2017-05-18 16:21:16.0

The Blitzboks won’t treat the final leg of the 2016/17 HSBC World Sevens Series in London as a coronation‚ but rather as a tournament that has to be won.

After wrapping up the overall Series title with victory in Paris last weekend – the Blitzboks’ fifth tournament success out of nine events this year – there is only pride to play for‚ for SA.

But pride and always striving for the highest standards is what has pushed Neil Powell’s team to the top of the sevens game this season‚ and there won’t be any letting up because the mountain has been scaled.

In 2002 New Zealand set a record of 198 log points in a season that had 11 tournaments‚ when only 20 points were awarded for a win.

But with 22 points for a tournament win this season‚ the maximum a team could earn is 220‚ just like it was 15 seasons ago.

The Blitzboks currently have 179 points on the standings.

If they win in London they would become the first team in history to break the 200-point barrier in a single season while a sixth tournament win would equal NZ’s record in a campaign featuring 10 tournaments or fewer.

“Now we start from scratch again‚” said veteran forward Chris Dry‚ who has notched up 292 matches in 61 tournaments thus far‚ scoring 90 tries for 450 points for the Blitzboks.

“We are really looking forward to this one‚ as some of the pressure is now off‚ with the Series won. We are delighted about having won in Paris‚ not only the tournament‚ but also the overall title.

“The focus will now move firmly to London. We wanted to play 10 good tournaments‚ so we are not there yet.”

“We want to finish it well‚ we owe it to ourselves to go out with a bang. We still have some work to do.”

Ruhan Nel and Siviwe Soyizwapi were of a similar mind.

“We are still playing for what that Springbok on the chest represents‚” said Nel.

“That means 100% dedication and commitment‚ 100% of the time. Nothing has changed because we won the series‚ we are still the same team who want to make the country proud and do the system justice.”

According to Nel‚ who was one of the leading tacklers in Paris‚ the team structure allows players to be at their best.

“For me to make those tackles it meant that I felt my back was covered and that is what we are hoping to do as a team‚” explained Nel‚ who is in line to play in his 100th match for the Blitzboks in London.

“Everyone will be stepped or beaten‚ but knowing there will be someone to back you up gives the confidence to go in hard.

“The pressure has been relieved a bit knowing that we have won the overall series‚ but we still want to finish well‚ as that was one of our objectives from the start. The guys are in a good space now.”

Soyizwapi‚ known as “Shakes” by his teammates‚ agreed with Nel: "Everyone in the squad is feeling positive and is in a good head space at the moment.

“After that great tournament in Paris where we improved game by game and then clinched the title and the overall series‚ the guys are really feeling good.

"Having said that‚ it will not mean anything come this weekend. We will have to start over again and again play to the standards we have set.”

The Blitzboks will face Kenya‚ Wales and the USA in Pool play in London. - TMG Digital/TMG Sport