The Springbok Sevens team will be aiming to go one step further at the inaugural Sydney Sevens this weekend after coming agonisingly close in Wellington last Sunday. The Allianz Stadium is hosting the tournament after its move from the Gold Coast and both days of the fourth round of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been sold out. There have been three different champions in the three tournaments so far in Dubai (Fiji), Cape Town (South Africa) and Wellington (New Zealand), and all eyes will be on the iconic Australian city to see who finishes on top this time.
Last Sunday, the Springbok Sevens came within a whisker of winning their second title of the season after their December triumph in front of a sell-out crowd in Cape Town. A last gasp try by hosts New Zealand thwarted an excellent effort by the South Africans, who will again be among the favourites for this weekend’s event in Sydney. The Blitzbokke have suffered a dreadful run of injuries so far this season, which have ruled out several regulars such as Werner Kok, Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika, Branco Du Preez and Ryno Benjamin.
Justin Geduld became the latest injury casualty when he returned home on Monday following a shoulder injury in Wellington. Apart from the spate of injuries, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell is also rotating his squad with an eye on the Olympic Games later this year, and perhaps more importantly, to blood some newcomers on the World Series circuit. Carel Du Preez has only four caps under his belt, Dylan Sage has played in just two tournaments while Sandile Ngcobo was a debutant in Wellington.
Tim Agaba is uncapped and set to make his debut in Sydney. The South Africans are playing in Pool B against Scotland, Russia and Kenya and Powell expects a huge battle for the two qualifying spots. With this in mind, Powell wants his team to fire on all cylinders when they meet Scotland.
The Blitzbokke boss says: ‘The Scots will punish you if you offer them any room to play. They are good with ball in hand and have a strong defence, so a good start against them will be key for us.’ According to the Springbok Sevens coach, Sydney will be a big test for the depth of the squad. Powell says: ‘Our bench is very inexperienced and the challenge for the replacements will be to maintain the same level of momentum and intensity when they run onto the field.’
Forward stalwart Chris Dry is now just two tournaments away from playing in his 50th World Series event for the Blitzbokke. South Africa have a two-point advantage over Fiji on top of the World Series log standings. The Springbok Sevens have collected 54 points in the first three rounds, and are followed by Fiji (52), New Zealand (47) and England (41).
After scoring seven times in Wellington, speedster Seabelo Senatla is presently leading the try scorers list with 18 tries, three more than Fijian Savenaca Rawaca.
The Springbok Sevens’ Pool B matches on Saturday in Sydney (all matches live on SuperSport, SA kick-off times):
02:44: SA vs Scotland
06:02: SA vs Russia
10:05: SA vs Kenya
Photo credit: Martin Seras Lima