Blitz Boks need lightning start

George Byron

THE Blitz Boks must hit the ground running when they play Argentina in their opening match at the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai tomorrow.

After ending fourth in the opening leg of the series at the Gold Coast in Australia last month, the Blitz Boks will be keen to finish higher in the standings and progress to the knockout stages.

With the talent at their disposal the South Africans must be favoured to progress from a group that also includes Russia and defending tournament champions Samoa in Pool D.

A strong showing in Dubai will also stir interest among fans ahead of the South African leg of the series, which kicks off at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth next Saturday.

The organisers of the PE event have appealed to fans to come out in big numbers to support the Blitz Boks in the only home leg of the gruelling world series.

The squad have been bolstered by the return to full fitness of livewire scrumhalf Branco du Preez and the inclusion of Junior Springbok attacking star Cheslin Kolbe of Western Province.

Werner Kok is the third change to the squad, while Mark Richards, and Steven Hunt missed out on selection.

Kolbe was included in the travelling party after Saru general manager for high performance Rassie Erasmus successfully negotiated his temporary release from WP. Commenting on the squad, Blitz Boks coach Neil Powell said he was pleased with the final selection and added the players were eager to improve on their showing at the Gold Coast.

Powell said: “Our preparations went well and the guys are really looking forward to Dubai and then to come home and play in front of our home supporters in Port Elizabeth. “We are looking for consistency in performance first during this series, but will be very keen to win the next two tournaments as we have good track records and support at both venues.”

Samoa’s head coach Viliamu Punivalu believes he has a squad ready to defend their Emirates Dubai Sevens title this weekend.

Last year former EP Kings flyer Paul Perez scored two tries as then captain Afa Aiono guided Samoa to a 26-14 victory against eventual Sevens World Series champions New Zealand.

“I believe the team are good enough to defend the title,” Punivalu said.

“We have a sightly different strategy on our approach to the selection process this time in that we decided to bring six forwards and six backs.

“Unfortunately, we have a lot of good players back home we had to leave behind, but I am very confident and have all the trust in the world in the team.

“I believe they will do the job on the day.”

The Springbok Sevens squad travelling to Dubai and Port Elizabeth: Chris Dry, Phillip Snyman, Werner Kok, Frankie Horne, Jamba Ulengo, Kyle Brown (captain), Stephan Dippenaar, Branco du Preez, Justin Geduld , Cecil Afrika, Cheslin Kolbe and Sampie Mastriet.

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