The cut-throat nature of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and the unpredictability of every match played will best be displayed at Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday when four teams – including South Africa – will chase the overall crown for the 2022 season.
SA (124 points), Australia (122), Argentina (118) and Fiji (104) all have a chance to clinch the World Series title, but for Blitzbok coach Neil Powell, the mathematics is simple in order to retain the HSBC LA Sevens and World Series titles.
“We will focus on one match at a time and for us that is the opening pool game against the USA,” Powell said.
“Yes, it is a very tough pool, starting with America, then Canada and then New Zealand, they are three tough teams, who all play totally different from each other and can beat any team on any day.
“America will be tough in front of their home crowd, but we always target the first game to set the standard.”
The last time the Blitzboks played, in the final of the Commonwealth Games, they delivered close to a perfect performance, but Powell said this is a new tournament with new demands: “The Commonwealth Games was close to perfect, but that is in the past. At least we know what our standards can be now, so it is up to us to repeat that.”
A good week of hard work in Los Angeles has perked up the team for the weekend.
“It has been a good week for us and there is nice cohesion in the team, the guys are really enjoying each other’s company and that is always a positive going into a tournament,” according to Powell.
The field sessions also delivered more smiles than groans from the coach, who will be in charge of the Blitzboks for the last time in a World Series tournament.
“We had some issues in our preparation back home, with the weather not great in Cape Town and us losing Lubabalo Dobela and Mfundo Ndhlovu in the final week due to injury, but the effort since we arrived here was really good. From that perspective it was a really good week,” he said.
The withdrawals of Dobela and Ndhlovu handed an opportunity to Darren Adonis and Shilton van Wyk, who have experienced podium finishes with the Blitzboks during this year’s series.
“Yes, they will enjoy the opportunity to be playing again,” said Powell.
“Darren might be slightly unfamiliar with the flyhalf role, but he is a very talented player and have the skill set to play there, not only in this tournament, but in the future as well. Both will be good to go, and I expect good things from them.”
Blitzboks’ pool schedule (SA times, all matches on SuperSport):
Saturday, 27 August:
Sunday 28 August:
00h59: New Zealand
Sako Makata – 15 tournaments, 63 matches, 55 points (11 tries)
Ryan Oosthuizen – 31 tournaments, 146 matches, 150 points (30 tries)
James Murphy – 9 tournaments, 35 matches, 30 points (6 tries)
Zain Davids – 32 tournaments, 162 matches, 160 points (32 tries)
Angelo Davids – 8 tournaments, 44 matches, 155 points (31 tries)
JC Pretorius – 19 tournaments, 99 matches, 210 points (42 tries)
Branco du Preez – 81 tournaments, 411 matches, 1426 points (100 tries, 460 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)
Darren Adonis – six tournaments, 22 matches, 52 points (10 tries, 1 conversion)
Shaun Williams – six tournaments, 25 matches, 72 points (12 tries, 6 conversions)
Dewald Human – 17 tournaments, 76 matches, 211 points (17 tries, 63 conversions)
Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain) – 39 tournaments, 204 matches, 655 points (131 tries)
Muller du Plessis – 18 tournaments, 87 matches, 305 points (61 tries)
Shilton van Wyk – 3 tournaments; 12 matches, 20 points (4 tries)