Cape Town - What happened in Vancouver, should stay in Vancouver. That
is how Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell feels on the eve of the Hong Kong Sevens.
The Blitzboks completed their training for the tournament on Thursday and bar a quick captain’s run a
couple of hours before their opener on Friday against Japan (kick-off at 12:06
SA time), Powell was pleased with the week’s preparations.
"There are a couple of changes and a total of four new
players from the Vancouver tournament and that considered, I am happy with the
way things went," said Powell.
Powell stressed the fact that the team will start with a
clean slate, despite winning in Vancouver last month, their first tournament
victory in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
"That win will not mean anything here in Hong Kong," said
"It did help with the belief and was good reward for the
work done up to that point. It gave the squad some momentum. We start afresh
here in Hong Kong though and all focus will be on delivering a performance we
can be proud of in our first match against Japan."
Powell made two significant changes to the squad for the
trip, moving Werner Kok to the forwards and including the uncapped Angelo
Davids. Integrating them into their new roles was part of the focus this week.
"They need to understand their roles and responsibilities in
the team, so we did focus a bit on that," explained Powell.
"The most pleasing aspect about the win last time was the
development of individual players into the team environment and the development
of the team in executing our processes. If we can continue making progress in
that regard I will be a happy coach."
Powell said the younger players (four are making Hong Kong
debuts) have brought heaps of energy into the squad.
"It is now up to the
senior players to use that energy and guide the guys in channelling it into the
right direction. If we manage that, we will be good for this weekend," he said.
He is under no illusions on what the Blitzboks can expect
from Japan, their first opponents.
"We played them in Las Vegas early last month and won 26-0,
but they had us under pressure at times," said Powell.
"They use the rush defence well and I see they have some
guys from Pacific Islander origin that played for them in the past, back in the
Powell said they will need to get their focus right for the
"We only play at six o’clock in the evening (Hong Kong time), so it
becomes a long day waiting to get started. It is important to be switched on
when the game kicks-off," he said.
Meanwhile, Blitzboks midfielder Stedman Gans said he is keen
to improve on his growing maturity as playmaker and leader in the team, with
his status in the squad having changed from "asking the questions" to "providing the answers".
"Yes, my role has changed a bit; the younger guys are
now where I was a year or so ago, asking a lot of advice and looking for ways
to improve. Now I find them coming to me for answers," Gans chuckled.
Time on the field has been the key to unlock his bigger
impact on the squad, so much so that Gans is in the starting line-up every time
they take to the field.
"Time on the field gives you confidence and your impact on
the ball gets better. The more you play the more you can anticipate and that
gives you more time on the ball," he said, adding that he hopes to be a guiding
light again this weekend, albeit in different circumstances.
"Last year we were complete underdogs, this time we arrived
here as the team who won the previous tournament (in Canada), and so the
expectations will be different. For us though, it is all about starting from
zero again and making sure we implement our processes."
The Springbok Sevens’ Pool A fixtures (SA times):
Friday 5 April:
Saturday 6 April:
The Blitzbok squad for Hong Kong is:
1. Ryan Oosthuizen (13 tournaments, 61 matches, 65 points,
2. Sako Makata (2 tournaments, 9 matches, 0 points)
3. Impi Visser (6 tournaments, 35 matches, 20 points, four
4. Chris Dry (66 tournaments; 331 matches, 465 points, 93
5. Werner Kok (43 tournaments, 218 matches, 485 points, 97
6. Kurt-Lee Arendse (one tournament, two matches, 0 points)
7. Branco du Preez (67 tournaments, 339 matches, 1120
points; 88 tries, 387 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids (11 tournaments, 53 matches, 237 points, 27
tries, 51 conversions)
9. Justin Geduld (42 tournaments; 217 matches, 904 points -
95 tries, 213 conversions, 1 penalty)
10. Stedman Gans (15 tournaments, 69 matches, 105 points, 21
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain; 24 tournaments, 124 matches,
385 points, 77 tries)
12. Angelo Davids (on debut)
13. James Murphy (2 tournaments, 11, 0 points) – official