Home Sport Three’s a charm for Blitzboks at Cape Town Sevens

Three’s a charm for Blitzboks at Cape Town Sevens

Cape Town – After the disastrous schedule that the Blitzboks had to endure at the Rugby World Cup Sevens a few months ago, experienced campaigner Branco du Preez is delighted that the South Africans are likely to play three games at the Cape Town Sevens on Saturday.

During the September World Cup at the Cape Town Stadium, the Springbok Sevens side faced Chile in their opener on the Friday night at 7pm, and then had to wait more than 24 hours for their next fixture – the quarter-final against Ireland at 10.33pm on the Saturday.

And having already had to deal with the injury-enforced absence of key figures Zain Davids and Dewald Human, the Blitzboks crashed to a 24-14 defeat in Neil Powell’s last event as the coach, and it quickly became a nightmare for the hosts.

Human has again been ruled out of this weekend’s Cape Town Stadium tournament, but Sandile Ngcobo’s team will hope for a better outcome this time around.

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The Blitzboks start their campaign against Canada at 8.03pm on Friday night, and then take on Fiji on Saturday at 11.19am and France at 5pm to complete Pool A.

Then it’s the Cup quarter-finals on Saturday night, with the semi-finals and final on Sunday.

“Everybody has to deal with their challenges, and this is one we need to tackle. We are playing the last game of day one, and it’s difficult for spectators to be at the stadium the whole day. But we appreciate the patience that they have to wait for us and cheer us on when we get onto the pitch,” Du Preez told IOL Sport.

“We prefer to play three games per day, so as things are now, it’s fine. We must just adapt, and then pitch up when we have to.

“If you had to ask me that four or five years ago, then I would’ve told you yes, it’s about beating Fiji. But the game has evolved so much that all the teams are at their best each time, so there isn’t a weaker team that you encounter on the field. But our focus will be on Canada first, and then Fiji.”

Ngcobo added: “The change from a two-day tournament to three days means you have to adapt slightly in your approach, especially from a strength and conditioning perspective.

“The workload needs to be adjusted to make sure players are fresh and because we have longer match days and the time between matches differs, meaning the mental aspect is also a bit different.

“We’re playing Canada on day one, who are a young team full of energy. They always rock up against us.

“I think we last played them at the Commonwealth Games and it was a tough game. That’s exactly the type of game we want. We need our guys to work hard and get into the tournament.”

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The 32-year-old Du Preez, who hails from George, holds the SA record for most tournaments played (84) and most conversions scored (466), and stated that the turnaround in last week’s Dubai Sevens was “phenomenal”.

But the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd will be something else, and the dreadlocked playmaker encouraged the Blitzboks to embrace the occasion.

“Every player experiences the atmosphere differently, but I think it’s an atmosphere that will give us energy and not place too much pressure on ourselves, but also just to go out and enjoy it. We have all been playing rugby for a long time, and know how to approach certain situations,” Du Preez said.

“I told myself last week in Dubai, you never know when it could be your last tournament, so you must enjoy every moment.

“I had a great time in Dubai, and this weekend is another great opportunity to showcase what Branco du Preez stands for – to live out your talent and create good memories.

“We all understand the game-plan and what we want to achieve when we go into a big tournament, and a player like Ricky (Ricardo Duarttee) was phenomenal last week.

“Someone like Darren (Adonis) has been there before, so they must not place too much pressure on themselves.

“They must enjoy the moment out there – you never know when is your last!”

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport