Dubai on Bl­itzboks’ hit list

Team tar­get­ing another su­perb sea­son

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT - SPORTS RE­PORTER

Cape Town

SPRING­BOK Sevens coach Neil Pow­ell wel­comed back Bl­itzboks reg­u­lars Kyle Brown, Kwagga Smith, Justin Geduld and Se­abelo Se­natla to his squad for the Dubai Sevens, the open­ing tour­na­ment of the World Rugby Sevens Se­ries, next Fri­day and Satur­day.

Brown only played in the first two tour­na­ments of the 2016/17 sea­son be­fore he picked up a se­ri­ous knee in­jury, Geduld missed five tour­na­ments due to a foot in­jury, and Smith and Se­natla missed six each be­cause of Vo­da­com Su­per Rugby com­mit­ments.

Tim Agaba is the only player in the team who did not travel to Dubai last year, where South Africa’s vic­tory kick-started a won­der­ful sea­son for the Bl­itzboks.

The Bl­itzboks are laden with ex­pe­ri­ence, with the av­er­age num­ber of tour­na­ments per player stand­ing at 37, the high­est av­er­age ever for a Spring­bok Sevens team in the World Se­ries tour­na­ment.

“We are for­tu­nate to be in this sit­u­a­tion,” said Pow­ell.

“There was a con­certed ef­fort to broaden our player base last sea­son as we knew we would lose Se­abelo and Kwagga af­ter four tour­na­ments, but then we lost Kyle and Justin to in­jury as well and that cer­tainly tested us.

“De­spite blood­ing a hand­ful of new guys last year, we still have the ben­e­fit of a re­ally solid squad. We were blessed with the lack of in­juries, es­pe­cially as a num­ber of the play­ers had a stint in fif­teens as well.”

Pow­ell feels that the men­tal chal­lenge will be as big as the phys­i­cal one: “We know we can win tour­na­ments if we be­lieve in our sys­tems and struc­tures.

“The real­ity is that we will have a tar­get on our backs this year, be­ing the de­fend­ing champions, not only in the se­ries, but also in Dubai.

“We need to keep on be­liev­ing that we can main­tain the stan­dards we have set as a team.”

Philip Sny­man will again cap­tain the side dur­ing the se­ries.

“It is hard to be­lieve it is that time of the year again and to be hon­est, we can’t wait to get onto the field and play,” said Sny­man.

“It was a tough pre-sea­son, but once the full squad joined, so did the in­ten­sity and fo­cus.”

The ex­pe­ri­enced Sny­man will be rep­re­sent­ing South Africa in his 48th tour­na­ment and he is as keen as his de­but at this venue way back in 2008.

“Make no mis­take, all the teams are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter and if you are not at your best, any­one can beat you,” he warned.

“We have seen that and ex­pe­ri­enced it our­selves in the past, so can­not look past Uganda in our first match. Af­ter that, we can move our fo­cus on to Kenya and Canada, our other op­po­nents in the pool.” – African News Agency

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