Cape Town - Blitzboks coach, Neil Powell, has urged his squad to toughen up on their mental approach for his weekend’s inaugural HSBC Canada Sevens in Vancouver.
Last weekend in Las Vegas, the South Africans lost their semi-final clash against Australia after conceding a penalty try after the sound of the final hooter. Powell now wants to see his squad improve their concentration and composure so that they are able to close out deciding matches successfully.
The two-day tournament will be staged in the state-of-the-art BC Place Stadium, which has a capacity of 54 500 and a gigantic retractable roof.
The Blitzboks finished third at the USA tournament and they are five points behind Fiji, who are leading the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings on 91 points.
Looking forward to this weekend, Powell said the challenge facing the team in the build-up to the tournament is to strike an even balance between enough training and their mental preparation.
“We know from experience that the second (of week of playing two tournaments in a row) is usually the most challenging," said Powell. "Although you don’t want to push the players too hard during training, you also want to work on certain areas of your game in preparation for the coming weekend.”
According to Powell, mental preparation is especially important: “You want to arrive at the tournament in the right frame of mind and with a good focus.”
Apart from the unfortunate lapses in concentration, statistics from last week’s tournament in Las Vegas indicate the Blitzboks were the most dominating side in several key areas of play during the tournament.
For this coming week, Powell wants his side to maintain their good form and to show a stronger mentality: “It is vital that we keep our discipline and focus right to the end, because any lapse will definitely cost you, as we saw in Las Vegas. The World Series is a very demanding and competitive competition,” explained Powell further.
Meanwhile, Blitzboks forward Chris Dry could play in his 50th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament if Ryan Kankowski doesn't overcome a stomach bug in time, while Springbok wing Bryan Habana is on course to run out in in his second successive World Series tournament.
A final call on Kankowski’s involvement will be taken at a later stage.
The Blitzboks will also be hoping that wing Seabelo Senatla will continue with his prolific try-scoring form. The flyer made 12 line-breaks last weekend and scored 11 tries to increase his season tally to 36 so far.
Powell has also cautioned that Brazil, who is not World Series regular and share the same pool, might be a surprise package: “Brazil defeated a strong SA Rugby Sevens Academy team in January in Chile, so they will be using that as a motivating factor when facing us,” reckoned Powell.
The Blitzboks face Scotland in the first tournament match at 19h30 on Saturday (SA time), which will be followed by the Brazilian clash at 23h06 and then the final pool game versus Argentina at 03h16 on Sunday.
The Blitzboks squad for the Vancouver tournament
1. Chris Dry (49 World Series tournaments) / Ryan Kankowksi (4)
2. Dylan Sage (4)
3. Tim Agaba (2)
4. Kwagga Smith (20)
5. Bryan Habana (3, Toulon, France)
6. Kyle Brown (51, captain)
7. Branco du Preez (42)
8. Rosko Specman (10)
9. Justin Geduld (22)
10. Cecil Afrika (40)
11. Seabelo Senatla (24)
12. Ruhan Nel (7)