GARETH DUNCAN analyses the Blitzboks’ chances at the George Sevens this season.
The Springbok Sevens find themselves in a fairly easy group which sees them match up against Argentina, Portugal and Zimbabwe. While head coach Paul Treu might argue that there is no ‘easy opposition’ in the World Series, the reality is that they have a team strong enough to finish on top of Pool D.
The only challenge on day one will be their own consistency. The Blitzboks were inconsistent in Dubai last weekend, drawing 19-19 against the likes of Scotland and only beating Russia by nine points in the group stages while they relinquished a 19-7 lead in the second half to lose 21-19 in the cup quarter-finals against Fiji.
The real challenge will come on day two, where they should face New Zealand or Dubai champions England – depending on who finishes second in Pool C. More likely England, even though they beat the former in the cup semi-finals at the opening tournament last weekend. You have to consider that George has been a happy hunting ground for the Kiwis, who have won four out of the last six tournaments at Outeniqua Park.
The cup final is likely to feature New Zealand and Fiji. Although the Blitzboks won this fixture in their title-winning campaign in 2008-2009, recent history and current form (see Kiwis favourite in George article) suggest that they will be competing in the plate section on day two after an early elimination in the cup quarter-finals.
If Treu’s charges are able to perform the way they did against Australia in the plate final in Dubai throughout the tournament, they may upset a few of the in-form teams in a successful run on home turf. However, this is unlikely as the Blitzboks have struggled with consistency, which has been a problem since the start of last season. Expect SA speedster Cecil Afrika to be the star of the weekend.
Kick-off is at 11:20.
SA vs Portugal (11:49 k/o)
SA vs Zimbabwe (16:55 k/o)
SA vs Argentina (20:38 k/o)
Springbok Sevens squad: Kyle Brown (c), Frankie Horne, Boom Prinsloo, Sibusiso Sithole, Jacques Engelbrecht, Paul Delport, Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez, Pieter Engelbrecht, Mark Richards, Steven Hunt, Bernado Botha.