There were some technical issues to sort out, but Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, also needed to get into his Blitzboks’ heads this week in preparation for the Australian leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The team has been drawn in Pool B in the HSBC Sydney Sevens, where they will face Argentina, France and Samoa at Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium.
The award-winning coach - who is the only person who has won the World Series as a player and as a coach - reminded his charges this week of their abilities and the significance of trusting in their systems following a disappointing 10th place finish last weekend in the HSBC New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton. This result was their worst in years.
“The most important thing was getting the confidence back up again,” Powell admitted. “The guys were hurt and even insecure following our showing in Hamilton.”
Powell is highly respected coach for a reason and he believes he has pulled the right strings with the squad, who won the opening tournament in Dubai and were losing finalists in Cape Town.
“It was just re-aligning everyone so that every player trusts the system again,” said Powell. “The system has brought us much success in the past, so there is nothing wrong there. It was the execution and adherence to the roles within it which proved costly for us.
“There were hard words to individuals, but restoring trust was the main thing and getting rid of the fear of failure.”
He added: “There were technical issues, like not winning restarts, conceding kick-offs and skew line-out throws, which were small things that gave away possession to our opponents, and we then had to defend, which tires you out.”
The Blitzboks were also found out by the new tournament format, which saw them being knocked out of Cup contention after just two pool games, and Powell is wary of falling in the same trap this weekend.
“Each match is a knock-out game, so we needed to change the mindset even more,” Powell said. “We looked at the stats and analysed that earlier in the week, and now the focus is only on Argentina. It is almost like 15’s rugby where you have only one opponent and you prepare accordingly.
“Argentina are pretty strong and they played well in New Zealand, so we need to make sure we are up for it. Individually we need to make sure we are at our best, and as a team, we need to trust the system, and it will look after us.”
The Blitzboks have an edge over Argentina both in terms of experience and points scored, with the South Africans boasting a combined total of 400 tournaments and 727 tries scored to Argentina’s 359 caps and 431 tries.
It will be a big weekend for Justin Geduld, in particular, who is not only playing in his 50th World Series tournament, but who also holds the record for the most points at an event in Sydney after scoring 56 points in 2018 – a feat he will be keen to repeat.
The Argentina clash kicks off at 03h41 (SA time) on Saturday.
HSBC Sydney Sevens pools:
A: New Zealand, Kenya, Fiji, Wales
B: France, Argentina, South Africa, Samoa
C: Australia, USA, Scotland, Japan
D: England, Canada, Ireland, Spain.
The Blitzboks’ playing schedule is:
Saturday, 1 February
09h30 – France
Sunday, 2 February
02h51 – Samoa
The squad for the HSBC Sydney Sevens is:
1. Chris Dry (71 tournaments, 358 matches; 480 points, 96 tries)
2. Angelo Davids (three tournaments, 15 matches; 25 points, five tries)
3. Impi Visser (12 tournaments, 61 matches; 65 points, 13 tries)
4. Zain Davids (21 tournaments, 104 matches; 70 points, 14 tries)
5. Werner Kok (48 tournaments, 244 matches; 530 points, 106 tries)
6. JC Pretorius (eight tournaments, 43 matches; 80 points; 16 tries)
7. Branco du Preez (72 tournaments, 365 matches; 1310 points, 94 tries, 417 conversions, one penalty, one drop goal)
8. Selvyn Davids (17 tournaments, 85 matches; 336 points, 35 tries, 79 conversions, one penalty goal)
9. Justin Geduld (49 tournaments, 255 matches; 1025 points, 110 tries, 236 conversions, one penalty goal)
10. Cecil Afrika (63 tournaments, 328 matches; 1445 points, 176 tries, 281 conversions, one penalty goal)
11. Muller du Plessis (11 tournaments, 47 matches; 165 points, 33 tries)
12. Stedman Gans (captain; 19 tournaments, 89 matches; 135 points, 27 tries)
13. Sako Makata (6 tournaments, 25 matches; 10 points, two tries)
Issued by SA Rugby Communications