Semi-finals the goal in Australasia for Blitzboks

21 January 2019 - 16:42 By Craig Ray
Springboks Sevens head coach Neil Powell chats to his players.
Springboks Sevens head coach Neil Powell chats to his players.
Image: Springboks Sevens/Twitter

The Blitzboks have a goal of making at least the semi-finals in both Hamilton and Sydney in the coming fortnight to remain in the frame for the overall HSBC World Sevens Series title this year.

The Blitzboks are currently fifth after two rounds‚ but are only eight points behind log leaders the USA with eight legs of the 2018/19 series to go.

At this stage the race is still wide open‚ and while winning the title is a priority‚ the main objective this season is to finish in the top four to secure Olympic qualification.

“We still need to get our performances to the standards we set‚ and if we can do that we could be in the semi-finals in the next two tournaments‚” coach Neil Powell said.

“But it’s not going to be easy because we have a tough pool in Hamilton with Kenya‚ Scotland and France.

“The crossover pool contains the USA‚ Samoa and England‚ which will make it tough if we get to the knockout stages.

“Every team has the motivation of automatic qualification for the 2020 Olympics‚ which has made this year’s series more competitive and open so far.

“We would all prefer to have automatic qualification rather than going through those regional qualifiers‚ where in a once-off tournament‚ anything can happen.

“There are 10 opportunities to make the top four‚ so there is motivation for everybody.”

The Blitzboks came third in the second leg in Cape Town and after watching the reviews‚ Powell believes his side could have won it with a bit more luck.

But he is also taking some positive aspects from not winning‚ believing that victory at home might have glossed over shortcomings in their game‚ which they have spent the last few weeks addressing.

South Africa has done well in New Zealand in recent years‚ winning in Wellington in 2017 and finishing as losing finalists in Hamilton in 2018. But with four players making their Hamilton debuts‚ it will not straightforward. “We have a number of new combinations here‚” try machine Siviwe Soyizwapi‚ who has scored 62 tries in 20 tournaments‚ said.

“It will be important for those to find each other early. We trained well together in Stellenbosch‚ so we should be good to go once we to take to the field.”

Impi Visser‚ Dewald Human‚ Selvyn Davids and Soyizwapi will all run onto FMG Stadium Waikato field for the first time.

“This trip is always challenging‚ as there are different time zones involved. We also have a number of guys coming back from injury‚ but we have managed to overcome that in the past‚” Soyizwapi said.