Blitboks have scar tissue and mental hurdles to overcome in Dubai

01 December 2016 - 18:18 By Craig Ray
Team huddle as Francois Hougaard looks on during the South African National Sevens rugby team Captains Run at Clube Da Aeronautica on August 08, 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Team huddle as Francois Hougaard looks on during the South African National Sevens rugby team Captains Run at Clube Da Aeronautica on August 08, 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

The Blitzboks will have to overcome some scar tissue when they take on Scotland and the USA in Pool B of the Dubai Sevens on Friday.

Dubai is the first stop on the 10-city HSBC World Sevens Series with South Africa starting the campaign as one of the favourites after finishing as runners-up to Fiji in the past two seasons.

But they have a tough pool to navigate on day one‚ with matches against qualifiers Uganda‚ Scotland and the formidable USA. There are no guarantees of emerging from this group unscathed.

Coach Neil Powell has cautioned against complacency‚ especially as Scotland inflicted the most psychologically damaging defeat on the Blitzboks last season.

In the final of the London tournament Scotland overturned an 11-point deficit in the final minute of the tournament to win 27-26 and deny the Blitzboks their second title of the season. Those wounds are still fresh in South African minds.

“I don't have to point to the Scotland match at all‚ we all know what happened in our previous clash and us losing the London Sevens after the final buzzer‚” said Powell.

“We will be up for that one. The USA remain one of the most dangerous teams on the circuit. They can really hurt you with their pace and counterattack‚ so we need to be clinical and have no tolerance for mistakes‚ either on attack or defence.

“Most of all though‚ everyone in the squad is looking forward to getting the season started. We worked hard in pre-season and the squad made me proud with their willingness to dig deep and work.”

The Blitzboks have met Scotland 40 times in the history of the World Sevens Series‚ winning 35 and losing only four with one draw. Their average winning score against Scotland is 26-10.

The Blitzboks’ opening match of the tournament is against the returning Uganda. The last time SA played against Uganda was in 2007. The Blitzboks have won the only two contests between the teams.

The final Pool match is against the USA‚ who won’t be cowered by the Blitzboks after eliminating SA at the quarterfinal stage in Dubai last season. It’s another mental hurdle for the Blitzboks to clear.

But there is confidence in the SA camp thanks to Powell drawing on an experienced squad‚ which includes current World Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla. There are also two former World Sevens Players of the Year in the group in Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok.

“Last year we started introducing some established fifteens guys into our structure as we looked at finding the right combinations for the Olympic Games‚” said Powell.

“This time around‚ we arrived with a squad full of sevens regulars. In fact‚ four of the five most experienced players ever in the Blitzbok shirt are here in Dubai‚ so a lack of experience will definitely not be an issue.

“Kyle Brown and Chris Dry have played for us more than 50 times and our new captain‚ Philip Snyman‚ is getting close to the 40-tournament mark already.

“All that experience and talent will count for nothing though if we do not bring our best effort to the field. We are facing Uganda‚ Scotland and the USA in what will be a very tough pool.”

The Springbok Sevens Pool B fixtures are: (SA time) South Africa v Uganda (8.06am) South Africa v Scotland (11.06am) South Africa v USA (3.06pm).

The Springbok Sevens squad for the Emirates Dubai Sevens tournament is:

1. Chris Dry (52 tournaments‚ 360 points) 2. Philip Snyman (captain‚ 37‚ 211) 3. Dylan Sage (7‚ 40) 4. Kwagga Smith (24‚ 250) 5. Werner Kok (19‚ 210) 6. Kyle Brown (56‚ 385) 7. Branco du Preez (45‚ 874) 8. Rosko Specman (13‚ 169) 9. Justin Geduld (25‚ 558) 10. Cecil Afrika (45‚ 1123) 11. Ruhan Nel (11‚ 110) 12. Seabelo Senatla (29‚ 785) 13. Siviwe Soyizwapi (3‚ 30)* - *Reserve Player

TMG Digital/TMG Sport