Blitzboks preview and infographic
BLITZBOKS veteran Branco du Preez says he and his team-mates will not be looking past their first two opponents, but the reality is that the home team know that what comes after that has upped the ante for them in the opening rounds of the Cape Town Sevens.
They start their challenge in this second round of the HSBC World Sevens Series against Zimbabwe and Samoa tomorrow, and it is customary for the bigger teams to limber up a bit on the first day and get themselves into their rhythm.
However, with the day ending for the Blitzboks with a clash with tournament champions and winners of the series opener in Dubai last week, New Zealand, there is extra reason now to be sharp from the off.
They need to build on what they started to put together towards the end of the first leg in Dubai against the first two opponents, so that they can be in a confident mood when they clash with the All Blacks.
Should they do that, then opportunity knocks for the Boks, and playing the Kiwis on the first day may turn out to be a good thing for them.
Although they came away with a morale-boosting victory last week, New Zealand had to dig deep for their win in the desert.
They were down to just nine fit players by the time they reached the final against the USA, and captain Scott Curry is one of those players who has had to fly home.
Reinforcements have been called for, but All Black Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw didn’t appear confident about their chances of winning in South Africa when they left Dubai.
It would be understandable if the Kiwis took some time to get going and back into their stride.
They may well be vulnerable on the first day, and the Blitzboks will be putting a lot of effort into making the most of what they’ll see as a great opportunity to make the statement that will galvanise their challenge on the deciding day of the tournament. “When you get opportunities to be tested early it does help big time with the momentum going into the second day,” agreed Bok flyer Siviwe Soyizwape.
Du Preez believes that making an early statement will be important, and that is why the initial focus is completely on the challenges posed by Samoa and Zimbabwe.
“We respect all teams and will not be looking past our first two opponents. We want to make a statement this weekend and that will start in the first game on Saturday [tomorrow],” said Du Preez.
The Blitzbok playmaker agreed with the theme from team-mates earlier in the week that New Zealand had provided a good example of what is needed this weekend. “They [New Zealand] are playing a very simple game plan and limit their mistakes. They are also very patient on attacking, only strike when they see the defence is stretching,” he said.