The Springbok Sevens face a daunting task at the Glasgow Sevens this weekend, and their performance in Scotland will no doubt have a significant effect on their ambition to challenge log leaders New Zealand for the HSBC Sevens World Series crown.
With the tournament in Glasgow and next week’s London Sevens being the only remaining legs on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit, the Blitzboks are currently seven points behind pace-setters New Zealand and must at least reach the final of both tournaments to keep their World Series title ambition alive.
The team, however, faces a difficult pool assignment on Saturday, with clashes lined up against Portugal, Samoa and New Zealand.
But despite this and the absence of two of their most influential players, captain Kyle Brown and attacking dynamo Cecil Afrika, the South Africans are still ranked as one of the favourites to win in Glasgow.
Brown is recovering from the concussion he suffered in Hong Kong, while Afrika sustained a groin strain at the same tournament.
Mark Richards makes a welcome return to the squad after last featuring for the Springbok Sevens at the Gold Coast last September, while Shaun Adendorff will makes his debut for the Blitzboks. Adendorff was one of the stars of the South Africa Under-20 team that won the 2012 Junior World Championship title.
Furthermore, wing Seabelo Senatla is also seeking to regain the top form of last season, which saw him feature in starring roles for the Junior Springboks at the 2013 JWC in France and the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow.
Senatla was chosen for the Glasgow Sevens Dream Team last year after the South Africans won the tournament, and nothing will offer him greater satisfaction than to help the team perform well this weekend in Scotland.
“Personally, I am not quite where I want to be yet in terms of my performance. However, this weekend is all about the team and what we as players can do to make this team advance as far as possible,” explained Senatla.
Stand-in skipper Frankie Horne conceded it will be a tough task to overtake New Zealand at the top of the log table with just two tournaments remaining.
He added that him and his team mates will not get carried away by the hype around their tussle with New Zealand for the World Series title despite the Springbok Sevens’ impressive overall record in the UK.
“The reality is that we will have to win the two remaining tournaments to stay in the hunt for the World Series title. However, having said that, we will not get ahead of ourselves or allow ourselves to get carried away,” said Horne, who will be playing in his 58th consecutive World Series tournament.
The team has emphasized the need to be consistent throughout the season and to reach the semi-finals at every tournament. Horne explains their attitude will not chance in Glasgow or next week in London: “For us it’s all about ticking the boxes in terms of the goals that we’ve set for ourselves as a team. So the guys will be really focused on the first match and then look to achieve our goals for the first day,” said Horne.
He added: “Last year we had a good time in Glasgow and were crowned tournament champions. This weekend we will have to go out and play to the best of our abilities, and if we do that then hopefully things will fall in place nicely for us.”
South Africa will take on Portugal at 13h20 in their opening encounter, followed by clashes against Samoa at 16h26 and series leaders New Zealand at 19h37 in what is expected to be the match-up of the day.
SuperSport will broadcast all the action live on SS6 (Sat) and SS1 (Sun).
The Springbok Sevens squad for the Glasgow Sevens (World Series tournaments in brackets):
1. Chris Dry (35 caps)
2. Philip Snyman (22)
3. Frankie Horne (captain, 57)
4. Jamba Ulengo (11)
5. Werner Kok (7)
6. Shaun Adendorff (0)
7. Branco du Preez (30)
8. Stephan Dippenaar (20)
9. Justin Geduld (11)
10. Mark Richards (8)
11. Kwagga Smith (4)
12. Seabelo Senatla (8).