Cape Town - The improvement from the first to the second tournament of the World Rugby Sevens Series was pleasing, but Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell feels his squad will need another step-up if they want to be in contention at the New Zealand Sevens this weekend.
The Blitzboks, who started the 2018/19 series as back-to-back series champions, had a quiet start, finishing sixth in Dubai and third in Cape Town in December, but they showed good improvement in the process, something Powell feels will have to continue at the FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton in the third of 10 tournaments in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
"This tournament is traditionally a very tough one," said Powell.
"For us, there is travel and time zones to overcome, but generally teams are all pretty competitive. It is still early in the season and everyone is fit, mentally strong and keen and had some time together as a squad.
"All the teams also enough time for players to recover from injuries picked up in Dubai and Cape Town, so altogether this is a high hurdle to overcome. The likes of Fiji and Samoa also see this as their home tournament, so is really competitive."
The Blitzboks have done well in New Zealand in the past though and Powell feels that if they continue with their upward curve, it should not change. South Africa face Kenya, France and Scotland in Pool C on the first day, all of whom will be respected by the Blitzboks.
"We had a good two and a half weeks back home and this week went well," said Powell.
"I was particularly pleased with our defence session on Thursday. We do have some new combinations that will take time to develop, but overall we are progressing nicely.
"I have asked the guys to leave nothing out there in every match. We are not looking at our opponents, but at our own effort. If the players give all they have in those 14 minutes and can walk off the field happy with their effort, I will be content."
Springbok Sevens squad for the New Zealand Sevens:
1. Chris Dry (64 tournaments; 319 matches, 460 points, 92 tries)
2. Philip Snyman (captain - 56 tournaments; 257 matches, 351 points, 64 tries, 16 conversions)
3. Impi Visser (2 tournaments, 12 matches, 10 points, 2 tries)
4. Zain Davids (15 tournaments; 70 matches, 50 points, 10 tries)
5. Werner Kok (39 tournaments; 196 matches, 450 points, 90 tries)
6. Kyle Brown (67 tournaments; 339 matches, 435 points, 87 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (63 tournaments; 316 matches, 1182 points, 84 tries, 378 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids (7 tournaments; 29 matches, 102 points, 14 tries, 16 conversions)
9. Justin Geduld (38 tournaments; 194 matches, 872 points, 89 tries, 212 conversions, 1 penalty)
10. Dewald Human (6 tournaments; 26 matches, 79 points, 9 tries, 17 conversions)
11. Siviwe Soyizwapi (20 tournaments; 101 matches, 310 points, 62 tries)
12. Stedman Gans (11 tournaments; 44 matches, 60 points, 12 tries)
13. JC Pretorius (on debut - travelling reserve)
The Blitzboks’ schedule for the first day is (SA times, all matches on SuperSport):
Friday, January 25 v Kenya - 23:22
Saturday, January 26 v France - 03:10
Saturday, January 26 v Scotland - 07:22
The pools for the New Zealand Sevens:
A - Fiji, Australia, Argentina, Wales
B - USA, England, Samoa, Tonga
C - South Africa, Scotland, France, Kenya
D - New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Japan