Having missed out on nine of the ten HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in the 2015/16 season, current World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Werner Kok, is pretty keen to get back into action for the Springbok Sevens team.
The 23-year old back is part of a strong South African Sevens squad that will contest the Safland Sevens in their first tournament of the new season, to be played in Swakopmund on 12 and 13 November.
The team arrived in the Namibian coastal town on Wednesday afternoon and Kok is determined to start the season with a solid showing that will put him in contention for the opening tournament of the 2016/17 series, to be played in Dubai on 2 and 3 December.
Kok captained the South African side that won the Safland Sevens event last year, when the inaugural tournament was held in Windhoek.
“It is great to be back in the system again. I missed it dearly. It is just so amazing to be part of this squad,” Kok said.
He had to work hard to get back to fitness following knee surgery after the Dubai tournament last year, spending many extra hours on the training field in order to make the team that played in the Olympic Games in Brazil, but it was all worth it after Team South Africa’s podium finish in Rio de Janeiro in August.
The flyer then had a productive season for DHL Western Province in the Currie Cup, joining them at the back-end of the tournament and scoring four tries for the Cape Town side.
One of those was a great try in the semifinal of the competition against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, but it was not enough as the team missed out on a final spot due to a late score by the home side.
“The fifteens were important for me from a confidence point of view. It has a more physical approach and I needed that. With sevens, it is more about fitness and speed, two elements of the game I enjoy, so to change back is easy for me.”
The South African squad is packed with experience and although they have played together many times, Kok stresses the importance of getting real match situations into the legs and minds.
“It is crucial to play a couple of serious matches to get the combinations right and to enter the opening two legs of the season with good momentum. We need to find each other and connect as a team again in a competitive environment, and tournaments like these are great to get that going. We are looking to this tournament to achieve exactly that.”
The team will train Thursday and Friday to get use to the local conditions before their first match against Germany on Saturday. They will also play an All-Stars team and Namibia, before a final pool match against Kenya on Sunday, followed by the knock-out phase of the competition.