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Added sevens stars boost preparations ahead of Dubai
- Updated: November 12, 2014
The crop of new additions who joined the Springbok Sevens training squad in Stellenbosch have slotted in well as the group notched up a gear in their preparation for the next two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
The training squad was bolstered recently with the call-up of Springbok JJ Engelbrecht and several provincial players who returned from Absa Currie Cup duty.
The addition of Engelbrecht, Jesse Kriel, Warrick Gelant, Sampie Mastriet (all Vodacom Blue Bulls), Cheslin Kolbe, Justin Geduld (DHL Western Province), Rosko Specman (Steval Pumas), Mark Richards and Kwagga Smith (both Xerox Golden Lions) have increased the training group to 26 players.
On Tuesday Powell praised the attitude of the new and returning players respectively and said they all slotted in with ease. ‘We’ve had two good weeks of training so far and the players who have joined us have all come in with a great attitude,’ explained Powell.
The coach said the entire group was aware that they would have to fight for places in the 12-man group that will be selected for the Dubai and Port Elizabeth tournaments.
‘We have a plan for the guys returning from provincial duty and players such as JJ who joined us for the first time,’ explained Powell. ‘They worked extremely hard during the past two days to get into the system. With that in mind, we have scheduled a series of training matches on Thursday and Friday against several university teams. That will give us an opportunity to test them in match-like conditions.’
Several Blitzboks regulars sat out of Tuesday’s two hard training sessions. Frankie Horne and Branco du Preez are battling with niggles, while Phillip Snyman (calf) and Stephan Dippenaar (hamstring) have been ruled out of action and won’t be considered for selection for Dubai and PE.
Powell indicated that he will trim his senior squad to a more manageable size on 24 November, three days before he announces the travelling party of 12 players. Those not selected for the Blitzboks will be considered for the SA Sevens Academy team for the December International Invitational Tournaments in Zimbabwe and Dubai respectively.
Dubai is the next stop on the nine-tournament circuit, with the desert city hosting the best Sevens players on 5 and 6 December. The World Series then returns to South Africa a week later when Port Elizabeth hosts the annual Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens.
South Africa were finalists last year in Dubai and managed to capture their home title a week later in a pulsating Cup final against arch-rivals New Zealand.
The Springbok Sevens finished fourth at the season-opening Gold Coast tournament in Australia, and with Olympic qualification for the top four teams on the final log looming large, the Blitzboks will be keen to improve on their previous performance.
Meanwhile national women’s sevens captain Zenay Jordaan said on Tuesday that the Dubai IRB Sevens World Series next month would serve as a yardstick for her team to measure themselves against their competitors as they prepare for their debut season on the circuit.
The team made history in September by qualifying as one of the core teams on the World Series circuit for the first time. Making this achievement particularly significant is the fact that the top four teams on the log standings at the end of next season will qualify automatically for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The Sevens women have been training at their new base in Stellenbosch for the last month, and with their fitness levels having improved steadily and the focus in the camp switching from conditioning to working on their structures, Jordaan was pleased with their preparation.
‘The atmosphere in the camp is very positive and we are beginning to feel like a unit, which is a sign that things are coming together nicely,’ said Jordaan. ‘There is no doubt that it will be a challenging season, but we have received immense support as a team and we are working very hard at training, so we are determined to make our presence felt.
‘The Dubai tournament, in particular, will serve as an opportunity to measure ourselves against the other teams, so we will have a good idea of our strengths and weaknesses at the conclusion of the tournament.’
Jordaan admitted that while qualifying for the Olympic Games was their long-term goal, she said their immediate focus was on performing well in Dubai and building on that in the remaining five tournaments next season.
‘Our approach to the World Series is to take each match and tournament in our stride and hopefully the rest will take care of itself,’ the skipper said. ‘If we were to concentrate on the end goal first we could complicate matters for ourselves, so we need to be constructive in our approach. In Dubai our opening pool game is against Australia who were the runners-up last season, and they are experienced at this level, which makes it important to take it one game at a time.’
The national women’s side have been drawn in a pool with Australia, Spain and France for the Dubai World Series on 4-5 December.
Coach Renfred Dazel is expected to finalise his 12-member touring squad for the tournament next week.