The Springbok Sevens will aim to improve on their Gold Coast performance of last month when they play in the Dubai Sevens on Friday and Saturday. The tournament marks Round 2 of the HSBC Sevens World Series, which consists of nine tournaments worldwide.
Following the Dubai action, the 16 international teams will fly to South Africa on Monday to participate in the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens next weekend, 7 to 8 December in Port Elizabeth.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell made three changes to the squad that finished fourth at the Gold Coast for their next two tournaments.
Prolific try-scorer Cornal Hendricks is no longer available after joining the Toyota Cheetahs to play Vodacom Super Rugby, while Mark Richards and Steven Hunt were selected for the SA Academy team who are also in Dubai for the International Invitational tournament.
Powell chose Junior Springbok Cheslin Kolbe, fit-again Branco du Preez and Werner Kok as their replacements.
Looking ahead to the action on Friday, Powell said he is pleased with the squad’s preparation for their onslaught at a venue where South Africa have won three titles in the past.
“We played some good warm-up matches against three local university teams at home and that helped us a lot in terms of determining our state of readiness,” said Powell.
He added that while it is exciting to have game-breakers such as Kolbe and Du Preez in the squad, their focus will be team-orientated:
“They (Kolbe and Du Preez) have great individual talent, but we will need a huge team effort in this demanding tournament. Our theme this year is to strive for consistency, which means that we will firstly be looking to reach at least the semi-finals,” explained Powell.
Team captain, Kyle Brown, said it was vital to get a good start in the first three tournaments, and they will therefore look to improve on their Gold Coast performance.
“We knew from the start that these two tournaments would serve as indicators of how the rest of the season will unfold. A good showing in Dubai and PE will give us a good foothold on the World Series log, from where we can attack for the remainder of the race,” said Brown.
He expressed his satisfaction with their preparations for the next two rounds: “I feel we’ve had a good, strong four weeks of preparations and now it is up to us to perform on the playing field.
“We have a settled and experienced squad and it is nice that we could add some new but familiar faces such as Cheslin and Branco. We want to top our pool on the first day and that challenge begins with Argentina, who have a formidable team,” added Brown.
On Friday, South Africa open their Pool D fixtures against Argentina in the morning, while Russia await them mid-morning, before they finish their day-one schedule in the evening against the powerful outfit of Samoa, the defending Dubai champions.
SuperSport will broadcast all matches live on Friday and Saturday.
The Springbok Sevens Pool D fixtures for Friday, 29 November are (SA times):