Blitzboks nervously eye log and Olympic standings in Vancouver

09 March 2019 - 11:15 By Craig Ray
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell.
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

Blitzboks coach Neil Powell‚ whose mantra has always been about taking care of the small details‚ which will in turn sort out the big issues‚ admitted that he had one eye on the World Series log.

Usually Powell denies looking further ahead than the next assignment‚ but in Vancouver‚ where the sixth leg of the 2018-19 season is taking place‚ the log is taunting him.

The Blitzboks are fifth after five rounds. That puts them out of automatic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (top four) as it stands right now. That is a concern.

“The focus is not on the log‚ but you cannot ignore it‚” Powell said as the team finished their preparations for the Vancouver tournament.

“We want to finish in the top four as this was always a target‚ so we realise that we need to perform at our best to achieve that.

“We are only happy when we contest finals and some of our placings this year were not good enough.”

Powell feels an improved showing in Canada will help aid the Blitzboks’ quest‚ adding that the team did well in some areas in Las Vegas last week despite finishing seventh – their worst performance in five years.

“We will continue chasing our best efforts and if we can play at our best‚ the outcomes will reflect that‚” he said.

“We showed improvement in some areas in Las Vegas – our effort on defence was very good and only New Zealand had better defensive stats than us.

“We can still improve though‚ but need to work harder in other areas. Giving possession away was the crucial element last week.

“The feedback from last weekend showed that the USA‚ who won the tournament‚ had the best ball retention stats. So that is something we need to do better with if we want to improve our performance.”

The Blitzboks face Chile‚ Wales and Series leader the USA in Canada. They drew with Chile in Las Vegas and conceded five tries against USA in a 29-10 loss.

“It is not an easy group. Chile will take confidence from last weekend’s performance against us and will be up for it‚ no doubt‚” Powell said.

“We have not played Wales since Las Vegas last year‚ can you believe‚ so need to focus on how we want to play in that match.”

The USA will again be a big test.

“The final match in the pool is the USA‚ who we also played for the first time in this series in Las Vegas‚” Powell said.

“We now know a bit more of what they can bring. They are a very good side‚ having played in all five finals of the series this far‚ but we will be ready with a plan.

“We know how we want to play – it is all about execution.” 

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