Blitzboks to lean on experienced core
The few remaining experienced players in the Blitzboks team will have to shoulder more responsibility during the sixth leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in Vancouver this weekend.
The SA Sevens team are still 10 points clear at the top of the overall standings at the halfway point in the campaign‚ but they are down to only a handful of seasoned campaigners.
Star back Werner Kok is the latest player to succumb to injury. He sustained concussion in Las Vegas last weekend and has already flown home.
Marco Labuschagne‚ who has played one tournament‚ has gone the other way to replace Kok.
The team already embarked in the North American leg of the tour without six key players including record try-scorer Seabelo Senatla.
They managed to finish fourth in Las Vegas‚ but their chances of re-entering the winners circle for the first time since round one in Dubai‚ appear slim.
Former skipper Kyle Brown‚ who has 63 tournament caps‚ is one man who will have to shoulder huge responsibility this weekend.
“I have seen a bit of the city and there is a lot to see‚ but the best time for sight-seeing would be early this week as the bodies recover from a pretty tough weekend in Las Vegas‚” said the former captain.
“But there isn’t a lot of time to relax to be honest – we have a lot of hard work to do before the tournament starts.”
Brown admitted the Blitzboks’ standards are high and that newcomers could find that tough: “Luckily we have some very talented players and they learned valuable lessons last weekend. They were thrown in the deep end and swam pretty strongly‚” he said.
“As a senior player‚ you want a new player to find his feet as quickly as possible and improve from there.”
“We had our chances last weekend‚ but we have another opportunity this weekend and we need to back-up the positives from last week.
“Mentally‚ everyone should be keen to play‚ it is just the physical challenge that will test us.
"We are certainly in a good spot with regards to the youngsters on the long run and will be a better team because of it this weekend.”
Another stalwart‚ Branco du Preez‚ had some reflections too after the team left Las Vegas without a podium place.
He feels the junior players have a wonderful opportunity to develop their Blitzboks career this weekend.
“We need to get back to zero‚ like we always do‚” said Du Preez.
“We know our processes and systems work‚ so we just need to remind ourselves about that.
“The likes of Zain (Davids)‚ Stedman (Gans) and Selvyn (Davids) should get ample playing opportunities and it will be good for them.
"The system allows you to express yourself and to enjoy yourself and nothing should be different this weekend.”