The Springbok Sevens want to rectify the mistakes which characterised their performance last week in New Zealand by delivering a much more clinical showing at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas this coming weekend. The United States event kicks off early Saturday morning (SA time) and is spread over three days, from Friday 13 February to Sunday 15 February. Playmaker Cecil Afrika, a former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, will play in his 35th HSBC Sevens World Series tournament.
South Africa are the defending Cup champions and have won the title on three previous occasions – 2014, 2013 and 2011 – and will thus be aiming for their third title win in a row on their favourite hunting ground. Last weekend the Springbok Sevens finished third in Wellington after going down to France in their first pool match and losing to eventual winners New Zealand in the semis. Despite these setbacks, the South Africans managed to hold onto their first place on the Series log.
However, NZ managed to cut their lead to just seven points. They won the Dubai and Port Elizabeth tournaments last December but unforced errors and unusual missed tackles characterised their Wellington showing. Wing Seabelo Senatla, crowned the 2014 SA Sevens Player of the Year last weekend, emphasised the need for the Blitzbokke to get the basics right in Las Vegas.
“We spoke hard during the week and also worked extremely hard to try and identify and then correct the mistakes we made in Wellington. We are not pleased with that third place because we did not play to our full potential,” explained Senatla. The speedster is the Series’ top try scorer so far with 24 tries after four rounds and he will no doubt be a marked man again. According to Senatla he does not mind who score the tries, as long as his team is on the winning side, “I know the teams will be looking to close me down much quicker, but that is part of the game and I am not too worried about it. My main job will be to perform my duties and to contribute towards a successful team effort.”
South Africa face Portugal, Japan and hosts USA during the pool stages.
Springbok Sevens Head to Head (Las Vegas):
Portugal: Played 23, won 22; Average score 29-5
Last met Dubai 2014, SA won 28-7
Japan: Played 15, won 14; Average score 37-6
Last met Wellington 2015, SA won 24-7
USA: Played 31, won 29; Average score 27-7
Last met in Wellington 2015, SA won 26-14
The SA fixtures on Saturday, 14 February (SA times, live on SuperSport):
02:00 vs Portugal
04:56 vs Japan
22:40 vs USA