Playing the West Indies was literally a walk in the park for the Bok Sevens team.
We know everything is possible in the Land of the Free, but it was nevertheless a little surreal to watch the SA Sevens team play rugby against the West Indies in a park carrying a rattlesnake warning while trainee US Marines parachuted into a nearby field.
â€œStick to the footpaths â€“ leave the rattlesnakes beâ€ warned signs at San Diegoâ€™s Olympic Park on the outskirts of a Californian city that is the Pacific headquarters of the US Navy, thus guaranteeing a significant military presence.
The Marines would have been pleased with the â€œno mercyâ€ given to the hapless â€“ and hopeless â€“ West Indies Sevens team. Since when do they play rugby in the Caribbean? Mind you, Jamaica had a bob sleigh team â€¦
The bottom line is that Paul Treuâ€™s charges did not have the tough work-out they had hoped for going into Saturdayâ€™s matches against the USA, Mexico and England.
Treu is worried about the Americans, sensing that they believe they can use home ground advantage to upset his team.
â€œOrdinarily we would beat them fairly easily but they are a very passionate and patriotic team and would obviously love to open their tournament with a win over a big name country, thus capturing the imagination of the locals,â€ Treu said.
Mexico are in the same league as the West Indies and England are not the force they have been in recent years, although they have Sevens record points scorer Ben Gollings back from injury.
â€œLook it would be a major disappointment if we do not top our pool,â€ Treu said. â€œOn paper it is the easiest pool we have had so far (Dubai, George and Wellington have preceded this event) and we are on course for a semi-final showdown with New Zealand, who are likely to meet Fiji in a quarter-final. We really want this title. If we can knock New Zealand out and go on to win the final we can make some inroads on the big lead they have in the IRB series (the Kiwis won the first three events).â€
Treu has settled on a line-up that he believes is one of the best balanced he has had.
The coach has dropped out-of-form Jonathan Mokuena for red hot Frankie Horn, who has certainly taken his opportunities this Sevens series.
Mzwandile Stick will come in for Juan de Jongh and Neil Powell is back in the team after injury.
Also set for inclusion are Fabien Juries, MJ Mentz and Mpho Mbiyozo.
â€œIt is a very nice side, and one that is getting better almost with every practice never mind every game,â€ Treu said. â€œThis is our first season of having a contracted squad working from a home base (Stellenbosch) and the fruits are already there, although I would say we will only reach our potential in another two years, hopefully in time for the Commonwealth Games (in 2010). I am just so glad we have started (contracting players exclusively for Sevens duty), because we would have fallen seriously behind the likes of New Zealand and Fiji â€“ now we are in the race.â€
By Mike Greenaway in San Diego