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Blitzboks out to break Hong Kong hoodoo
- Updated: March 26, 2015
Saturday marks the 39th anniversary of the World Rugby Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament … and the Blitzboks will be aiming to make their own mark on the iconic tournament.
After several near misses, South Africa are still searching for that elusive first Cup win at this tournament. However, the Springbok Sevens are fully aware they will have to lift their game if they want to succeed in Hong Kong.
After two displays in Dubai and Port Elizabeth, that resulted in two successive World Series tournament wins, the team admitted they went somewhat off the boil in Wellington and Las Vegas where they could ‘only’ win bronze on both occasions.
South Africa are top seeds in Pool C and open their group fixtures on Friday in a tricky match against a much improved Argentine side (2pm SA time). On Saturday morning they tackle Japan and then France in their last pool match. The knockout stages kicks off early Sunday morning SA time.
Blitzboks coach Neil Powell said his team has made some tactical adjustments for Hong Kong. ‘We probably over-committed at the rucks in our two previous tournaments and that left us with a bit more space to cover. All the guys have bought into our adjustments and we are looking forward to give it a big challenge in Hong Kong,’ said Powell, who last year led South Africa to the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
He added the team are determined to capture their first ever Hong Kong Sevens title. ‘We cannot ignore the fact that we have never won here before. It is a massive challenge because this is a tough competition, but the guys are up for it and we will give it our best shot,’ vowed Powell.
Captain Kyle Brown said he and his team mates are very motivated to do well in Hong Kong. ‘We came back refreshed and full of energy after we had some extra time off following the previous two rounds. It was great to see the guys in a good mental space and training with smiles on their faces. Now we must implement our game strategy, play to our potential and deliver the goods,’ said Brown.
The World Series standings take on added importance this season with the top four-ranked sides to qualify directly for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The Springbok Sevens are currently leading the standings and another strong performance in the Far East will definitely ease any qualification pressures.
The Springbok Sevens squad for Hong Kong is (World Series caps in brackets, all SARU contracted players):
1 Chris Dry (40), 2 Philip Snyman (29), 3 Frankie Horne (64), 4 Kwagga Smith (11), 5 Werner Kok (13), 6 Kyle Brown (captain, 44), 7 Branco du Preez (37), 8 Stephan Dippenaar (22), 9 Justin Geduld (15), 10 Cecil Afrika (35), 11 Seabelo Senatla (14), 12 Rosko Specman (2)
Blitzboks’ pool fixture (SA times, all matches live on SuperSport):
2pm vs Argentina
6.18am v Japan
11.40am v France
3.30am – start of knockout matches
Picture of the sevens captains’ photo session courtesy of 24Sevens