The Blitzboks realise the importance of a strong start in the HSBC Singapore Sevens in the Singapore National Stadium this weekend and coach Neil Powell is keen for his side to build up winning momentum again.
The Springbok Sevens team won five of six matches in Hong Kong last weekend, but lost 22-0 to Fiji in the Cup final. The defeat was only the fourth in 42 matches as South Africa made a number of basic errors in the match.
The result did not impact on the Blitzboks’ lead in the overall standings of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, with the team still maintaining a 23 point lead. Singapore is the eighth of ten tournaments in the series.
Powell points to the importance of starting well against Japan, their first opponent in Pool B in Singapore.
“We need to start well and build momentum from there, so in a way, the Japan match is the most important one of the tournament, as it will set the tone,” said Powell.“They are a dangerous side when given space, so our defence will have to be spot-on. If we are going to allow them to run around, we will have a lot of defending to do.”
The Blitzboks then face France, another dangerous opponent according to Powell: “They played well against us last weekend in Hong Kong, where we won 17-10 and I think they will get a lot of confidence from that match. You never know which French team is going to pitch and that makes them a very tough opponent.”
The final pool match against England could also prove the toughest one mentally and physically. Three of the Blitzboks’ four defeats this season (and a draw) came at the hands of England, with the defeat in the Vancouver final last month the most recent.
“Yes, they are difficult to beat,” said Powell.
“They are well coached and have the most experienced side in Singapore. They are very physical, but I think we lost against ourselves in the defeat in Vancouver.
“We played poorly in that final, so the challenge will be to trust our structures and systems. If we do that and cut out the basic errors we tend to make against them, we will be competitive,” Powell added.
Springbok Sevens winger, Siviwe Soyizwapi, said the team is keen to rectify the mistakes from last weekend.
“In a way, we are lucky that Singapore is just a week after Hong Kong, which means we have a chance to fix things right away,” said Soyizwapi, who made his debut in Hong Kong last year and has since played in nine tournaments, scoring 21 tries.
“We have travelled well, the training sessions went well and we are ready to go out there and play for each other and for our country.
“Singapore is very hot and humid, pretty much like Durban, but that will only be a factor if we allow it to be. All the teams play in the same conditions, so it does not really matter.”
South Africa’s playing schedule Saturday (SA times):
SA vs Japan (06h06)
SA vs France (09h06)
SA vs England (13h02)
Stats & Facts:
- Sandile Ngcobo replaced Selvyn Davids (injured) in the only change to the side that played in Hong Kong last weekend.
- South Africa won the Singapore tournament only once before, in 2004.
- Only six players from the squad in 2016, World Series returned to Singapore after an absence of ten years, are back this year: Chris Dry, Tim Agaba, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika and Ruhan Nel.
- Philip Snyman, Zain Davids, Stedman Gans, Sandile Ngcobo, Werner Kok, and Dylan Sage will all play in the tournament for the first time.
- Kenya won the tournament in 2016, their only ever tournament success in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
- Cecil Afrika (1227) could extend his South African record for career points in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.