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Blitzboks out to win their third title on the trot
- Updated: February 5, 2015
The Blitzboks rugby sevens side will be looking to make it a hat-trick of HSBC Sevens World Series titles as they wind up for the Wellington leg of the series in New Zealand on Friday and Saturday.
The current World Series log leaders, South Africa will be aiming to lift the coveted trophy in Wellington after losing to hosts New Zealand in the Cup final last year at the Westpac Stadium.
Their mission this weekend is to build on their good momentum which saw them capture successive tournament titles in Dubai and Port Elizabeth last December. They kick off their campaign against France at 1am on Friday (SA time), then take on Japan at 3.51am and their final pool game is against the United States at 7.10am.
The Blitzboks, coached by Neil Powell, currently topping the table standings with 59 points, eight more than Fiji, with New Zealand in third place.
Powell said his charges are ready to face a tough two-day assignment on Kiwi soil: ‘Although we won the previous two tournaments, we all know it will require another tremendous effort to get through the pool stages in Wellington. We want to focus on our tournament goals and those are to be consistent and to reach the knockout stages.’
Apart from the crucial Series points on offer at the Wellington Sevens, the 16 competing nations will also resume their battle for the top four spots as they fight for Olympic qualification intensifies. Only the top four teams on the final standings in May will qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Powell made two changes to his squad that won so impressively in Dubai and Port Elizabeth, with Chris Dry and Justin Geduld coming in for Ruhan Nel and Cheslin Kolbe respectively. Dry is a vastly experienced campaigner and he will be out to prove his worth after being overlooked for the previous two rounds.
Geduld has shrugged off his injury niggles and he also will be eager to make an impact.
The top four teams on the World Series standings after three rounds are: 1 South Africa 59 points, 2 Fiji 51, 3 New Zealand 47, 4 Australia 46.
The Springbok Sevens squad (World Series caps in brackets, SARU contracted unless indicated): 1. Chris Dry (38) , 2. Philip Snyman (27), 3. Frankie Horne (62), 4. Kwagga Smith (9), 5. Werner Kok (12), 6. Kyle Brown (42, captain), 7. Branco du Preez (35), 8. Rayno Benjamin (27, Toyota Cheetahs), 9. Warrick Gelant (2), 10. Cecil Afrika (33), 11. Seabelo Senatla (13), 12. Justin Geduld (14)
Some fast Blitzbok facts:
Frankie Horne is the only player in the history of the HSBC Sevens World Series to play 62 consecutive tournaments. He will extend that record to 63 in Wellington.
Last December in Port Elizabeth playmaker Cecil Afrika (939) surpassed Fabian Juries (925) as the top points scorer for the Blitzboks in the World Series.
Branco du Preez played in his 35th World Series tournament in PE, placing him on the Springbok Sevens honours board alongside the likes of Juries, Horne, Dry, Marius Schoeman, Mzwandile Stick and Kyle Brown.
The Blitzboks will this weekend field their most experienced 12-man squad since World Rugby’s Sevens series kicked off almost 16 years ago. The team has played in a combined total of 314 tournaments and with an average of 26 events per player.
Picture of Blitzbok skipper Kyle Brown and fellow captains is courtesy of: World Rugby Sevens/Martin Seras Lima