With Olympic qualification looming large, the Springbok Sevens will be eager to kick off their important 2014/15 IRB Sevens World Series campaign on a winning note at the Gold Coast tournament this coming weekend. The 2014/15 season is widely viewed as the most competitive yet, with the top four teams on the log at the end of the season gaining automatic entry to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. The South Africans will be looking to resume their winning ways at the season-opening event in Australia, especially after their thrilling Gold Medal performance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.
Head coach Neil Powell admitted this week that the team’s preparations for the Gold Coast tournament have not been ideal. However, he cautioned his team will be primed to challenge for the tournament title when action kicks off during the early hours of Saturday morning (SA time). Regular captain and stalwart, forward Kyle Brown, is still busy with his rehabilitation following shoulder surgery, while a few other players were also nursing some injury niggles in the build-up to the tournament.
In addition to that, Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith also played in the Absa Currie Cup, which meant Powell could only get his full squad together on the eve of their departure to Australia. Veteran forward Frankie Horne will lead the Springbok Sevens in his 60th consecutive World Series match, while Powell also included uncapped Xerox Golden Lions centre Ruhan Nel in his 12-man travelling party. With Olympic qualification and World Series honours at stake, Horne said, “This is a big season, not only for us, but for everyone. I’m sure we will get a good taste over the weekend of what we can expect during the course of the season. Consistency will be vital, so it will require concentration and focus in each match.”
The South Africans face Wales, American Samoa and Kenya in their pool matches on the opening day’s play on Saturday. Wales will no doubt offer a formidable challenge in their first match, set to kick-off at 03:18 in the Cbus Super Stadium. This will be followed by two more pool matches, against American Samoa at 06:39 and then Kenya (10:39).
Photo credit: Wessel Oosthuizen