South Africa head into the HSBC Sevens World Series with two aims – to qualify for the Olympic Games and improve on last year’s second place finish.
The Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens gold medallists could not have set their sights any higher as they look to begin their campaign on a high with a third tournament victory in Australia. South Africa won the Australia leg of the Series when it was held in Adelaide in 2008 and 2009.
While the win over reigning Series champions New Zealand in the final of the Commonwealth Games would have done wonders for South African confidence, the Blitzbokke suffered a high-profile casualty in Scotland with captain and influential forward Kyle Brown injured during the tournament.
Brown is still in rehabilitation after shoulder surgery and is replaced as skipper on the Gold Coast by fellow stalwart Frankie Horne, who will be appearing in his 60th consecutive Series tournament.
Horne feels the next two days of action will set the tone for what is the most eagerly-awaited Series in history.
With Olympic qualification and World Series honours at stake, Horne said: “This is a big season, not only for us, but for everyone. I’m sure we will get a good taste over the weekend of what we can expect during the course of the season. Consistency will be vital, so it will require concentration and focus in each match.”
Head coach Neil Powell admitted this week that the team’s preparations for the Gold Coast tournament have not been ideal.
Several players have been nursing niggles, in addition to Brown being absent, while Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith’s involvement in the Currie Cup meant that Powell could only get his full squad together on the eve of their departure to Australia. Uncapped Xerox Golden Lions centre Ruhan Nel is included in the 12-man travelling party.
South Africa face Wales, American Samoa and Kenya in their pool matches on the opening day’s play on Saturday. South Africa defeated Wales 28-21 at the quarter-final stage of last year’s Cup competition in Australia before suffering a 47-0 loss to England in the third place play off.
Courtesy of IRB