Blitzboks will keep standard in Paris finale

31 May 2019 - 15:35
By Craig Ray
South Africa Sevens coach Neil Powell and Seabelo Senatla have a laugh during a press conference.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix South Africa Sevens coach Neil Powell and Seabelo Senatla have a laugh during a press conference.

The time for reflection and review of an inconsistent 2018-19 World Sevens Series campaign will happen in the coming weeks for the Blitzboks‚ but this weekend‚ it’s all about meeting their best standards.

Coach Neil Powell demands perfection even though he knows it’s not achievable. Despite securing Olympic qualification for next year‚ this weekend’s season finale in Paris is about being professional.

The Blitzboks have high standards and they will play to achieve them at the Stade Jean-Bouin where they are defending champions.

“We cannot improve on our fourth spot and we cannot go down to five‚” Powell said.

“It reminds me a bit of two years ago‚ when we had the World Series won with one tournament to go. Back then‚ we did not perform that well so we are keen to change that this weekend.

“We did not have the best of weekends in London [last weekend where they came seventh]‚ and we would like to change that around here in Paris. The players are very keen to go out there and improve on that.”

The coach shared a bit of his tactical thinking for the weekend‚ where he is keen to try some new combinations.

“I want to give some of the guys who did not start a match yet‚ such as Sako [Makata] a chance to do so‚ while JC [Pretorius] is coming off an injury and could do with some game time. Also expect to see Muller (du Plessis) getting a run at centre for example‚” said Powell‚ who added that this is not a hit and hope approach.

“It will be done without sacrificing any of our standards – we are going out there very proud to wear that jersey that means so much to all of us.”

The return to the squad of the three replacements for this tournament‚ Cecil Afrika‚ Mfundo Ndhlovu and Dewald Human‚ came at the right time for the squad‚ the coach explained.

“Some of the guys have played in all nine tournaments so far‚ others have played six in a row and everyone is not necessarily on the same page mentally‚” said Powell.

“The three new guys came to Paris with lots of energy‚ which is very valuable to the squad at this stage. Cecil has not played all season‚ Dewald last played in Sydney and Mfundo in Las Vegas‚ so they are all very keen to give it a go.”

Powell makes no secret that Pool B will be a tough one for this squad.

“Both Wales and Kenya are fighting for survival in the series‚ so they will be coming with everything they have‚” he said.

“Wales are very good at the breakdown technically and can punish you if you’re not clinical. The Kenyans run hard and will be very physical‚ with lots of counter-rucking‚ and we need to be ready for that.”

The final pool match against Australia should also be a thrilling one. The Aussies won their last encounter – in London last weekend – 29-22 after dominating a number of areas of play.

“It is a good opportunity for us to play them again‚ to see where we are as a team and if we learned from those errors made against them‚” Powell said.

Springbok Sevens squad:

1. Ryan Oosthuizen (16 tournaments‚ 77 matches‚ 80 points‚ 16 tries)

2. Sako Makata (5 tournaments‚ 21 matches‚ 10 points‚ two tries)

3. Impi Visser (9 tournaments‚ 50 matches‚ 55 points‚ 11 tries)

4. Mfundo Ndhlovu (3 tournaments‚ 14 matches‚ 15 points‚ 3 tries)

5. Werner Kok (46 tournaments‚ 234 matches‚ 525 points‚ 105 tries)

6. JC Pretorius (4 tournaments‚ 21 matches‚ 50 points‚ 10 tries)

7. Branco du Preez (70 tournaments‚ 355 matches‚ 1278 points‚ 92 tries‚ 406 conversions‚ 1 penalty‚ 1 drop goal)

8. Dewald Human (8 tournaments‚ 37 matches‚ 102 points‚ 12 tries‚ 21 conversions.

9. Justin Geduld (45 tournaments‚ 233 matches‚ 936 points‚ 101 tries‚ 214 conversions‚ 1 penalty)

10. Cecil Afrika (61 tournaments‚ 318 matches‚ 1430 points‚ 173 tries‚ 281 conversions‚ 1 penalty)

11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain; 27 tournaments‚ 139 matches‚ 440 points‚ 88 tries)

12. Muller du Plessis (9 tournaments‚ 38 matches‚ 125 points‚ 25 tries)

13. Philip Snyman (61 tournaments‚ 273 matches‚ 366 points‚ 67 tries‚ 14 conversions‚ 1 penalty) – travelling reserve