Treu looks to the young guns
The race to Dubai may be over for the golfers competing on the European Tour, but it has just started for the specialists of the sevens code.
Sixteen of the best sevens rugby teams in the world have assembled here in Dubai for the opening leg of the 2010/2011 series and will kick-off another exciting season on Friday.
I again find myself in this fascinating city, courtesy of Emirates Airlines and am really looking forward to this year’s event.
For once, there is no clear favourite to win. New Zealand, as always, has strong credentials, especially after winning the Commonwealth Games a couple of months back.
They have arrived with six new players though, as is the case with South Africa, who of course, have won here in 2003, 2006 and 2008.
Fiji have no less than eight new faces and Australia, who took silver at the Commonwealth Games, also have only three from that squad, with the rest all starting fifteens careers back home.
With the Melbourne Rebels a new team in Australia, there is a bigger need for players than before Down Under and it will be interesting to see how that impacts on their sevens team.
They don’t have the numbers we have in South Africa and with another team to feed, their sevens programme could be the big loser.
Not that I would mind of course. The Blitzbokke certainly need all the luck they can get, especially after the horrendous run of injuries Paul Treu’s team had to endure in the 2009/2010 season.
I had lunch with the team yesterday and can certainly testify to their good spirits and motivation to do well again.
The new guys in the side all have some pretty weird hairstyles, courtesy of Renfred Dazel, who had the scissors in his hand to do the traditional hair cut initiation.
It was quite interesting to note that four of the team all attended the 2008 Craven Week, which indicates which way Paul Treu is moving with this team.
The idea Treu is to expose the players to sevens early in their careers and when called upon again, it is hoped that they would slot in again seamlessly. This is with the Olympics in mind.
Unfortunately the success or failure of this will only be tested once sevens becomes part of the Olympics in 2016, but I believe Treu got the right idea.
It is perhaps not a bad idea either to remind the public every now and again that the likes of Gio Aplon, Heinrich Brussow, Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers did play sevens rugby earlier in their careers.
Although the demands of the two codes are growing apart a wee bit, there is no doubt in my mind that players learn lots more playing for the sevens team than playing in the normal SA U21 competition.
At least we have some structure now with Dawie Theron being appointed as national U20 coach. I want to wish Dawie well in this new position. The fact that two of his predecessors in the job, Jake White and Peter de Villiers, kicked on to become Springbok coaches, will not be missed by Theron, but for now, he needs to get our Baby Boks winning again.
I am sure, with Treu’s vision on the youth and Theron’s commitment to make the side strong again; our junior players are in good hands.
But back to Dubai and the race to glory for the Emirates International Trophy.
The Blitzbokke have a chance, make no mistake. I expect Cecil Afrika to be the catalyst, as the former Griffons player is in his second season of sevens and should have the confidence to make things happen.
The return of Dazel will also help. He has got BMT and reads the game very well. His enforced absence in last year’s series due to injury certainly did not help the cause of the South Africans.
It will also be important for our team that Frankie Horne plays well. He is the hard man of the side. Also watch out for Boom Prinsloo, who according to Treu, is one of the most natural sevens players he has seen in a while.
Good luck to the Springboks on the weekend. The Barbarians side certainly have the players to beat the Boks and I suspect the South Africans will be up against it.
But as we will have a look here in Dubai on the possible future with the six new caps, we will also be able to see what the future will hold for the likes of Elton Jantjies and Pat Lambie.
Let’s hope it is smiles all around, come Saturday evening. It was not a great year for either team, so a good effort on the weekend will have all of us feeling just a wee bit better.
Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.
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