The Springbok Sevens have recharged their batteries following their impressive success at the inaugural Cape Town Sevens and a well-deserved break over the festive season, and are looking forward to the next two World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Wellington and Sydney. Wellington hosts the third leg of the World Series on 30 and 31 January and the inaugural Sydney tournament takes place a week later, on 6 and 7 February. SA Rugby will announce the 12-man squad for Wellington and Sydney at a Steinhoff sponsorship function in Stellenbosch next Wednesday afternoon.
Powell and his team have been in training camp since 4 January but the recovery of some players as well as illness among others, unfortunately prevented the full squad from training together from the beginning of the restart camp. Werner Kok is a long term injury casualty and has undergone knee surgery, while Cecil Afrika was nursing a persistent hamstring niggle. Although Branco du Preez has recovered from his shoulder rehabilitation, he was laid low with a virus infection.
After the high of winning the inaugural Cape Town Sevens last December, the team enjoyed a break and regrouped again last week in Stellenbosch. Powell is confident that his charges are now fully energised again after a well-deserved break and ready for the Australasian leg of the World Series, saying: ‘It only took one gruelling session to the guys back into the swing of things again and I am satisfied with their levels of intensity and mental preparation. Last year, in the build up to Dubai and Cape Town, we spent a lot of time on the basics of our playing structure because we had a lot more fifteens players with us. This time around, we could go straight into preparation of our game plan, which I think is a big plus.’
The three non-contracted players currently training with the squad are the Western Province duo of Cheslin Kolbe and Juan De Jongh, and Ryno Benjamin of the Free State Cheetahs. All three were instrumental in the team winning their third consecutive home title at the Cape Town Stadium last December, where the tournament was successfully hosted for the first time. Powell expects the trio to play even better Down Under, saying: ‘I am very happy that we have them available for the first four tournaments of the World Series. They were impressive in Dubai and Cape Town and I know they will improve even more because of the amount of time spent with the rest of the squad.’
The Blitzbokke have a tough pool draw for Wellington, where they will face hosts, New Zealand, Scotland and Russia.
Photo credit: Martin Seras Lima