Blitzbokke aim to open gap

2015-02-04 19:36
Neil Powell (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The HSBC Sevens World Series continues in New Zealand with round four taking place in Wellington on Friday and Saturday and crucial points on offer.

Current World Series log leaders South Africa will be aiming to go one step further and 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.

The Blitzboks, coached by Neil Powell, are 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 the 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 experience campaigner and he will be out to proof 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 Springbok Sevens’ pool opponents on Friday are France, USA and Japan.

The Springbok Sevens fixtures on match day one at the Wellington Sevens (SA times):

01:00 vs France;
03:52 vs Japan;
07:10 vs USA

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)

Fast 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 year ago. The team has played in a combined total of 314 tournaments and with an average of 26 events per player.


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