But coach reports his team keen to play in NZ and US.
The Blitz Boks will be missing the spark provided by dynamic Cheslin Kolbe when they play in the next two legs of the HSBC World Sevens Series in New Zealand and the United States. After their magnificent win in the South African leg of the series in Port Elizabeth last month, Blitz Boks coach Neil Powell is keen to consolidate his team’s flying start.
Tournament wins in Dubai and Port Elizabeth have left the Blitz Boks at the top of the log and made them the team to beat in the World Series.
Powell says he will have to make some tough choices to when announcing his touring party of 12 players for the tournaments in New Zealand and the US.
The Wellington Sevens take place on February 6 and 7 in the New Zealand capital and will be followed by the Las Vegas Sevens a week later, where the South Africans are the defending champions.
Despite Kolbe’s absence of because of Super Rugby commitments with the Stormers, Powell still has a strong group of players to choose from.
“We are really blessed to have 22 quality players available for selection.
“The group who played in Dubai and Port Elizabeth performed very well, while those who missed out on selection really showed amazing commitment and desire to get back into the squad,” Powell said.
The SA Sevens coach, who guided his country to their first Sevens gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last season, said he was pleased with the commitment shown at training since the squad assembled in Stellenbosch on January 5.
“We pushed them hard and they responded very well,” Powell said.
“South Africa are looking to maintain their momentum and to keep on improving as a squad.
“Although we are pleased with the tournament wins in Dubai and PE, there is always room for improvement.
“We conceded far too many penalties in PE. So we have worked hard on keeping our focus and being disciplined in the last few weeks.”
Last week the squad worked with Springbok breakdown consultant Richie Gray, while they called in former test referee Freek Burger on Tuesday to assist with the interpretation of technical rules.
Regular team captain Kyle Brown was back at training this week after enjoying a day off following his wedding at the weekend. The 12-man squad will leave for New Zealand next Friday, where they will face France, Japan and the US in the pool stages.
South Africa are enjoying an eightpoint lead over Fiji at the top of the World Series table after successive wins in Dubai and PE.
The top four teams on the final World Series table will qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
There were joyous celebrations when the Blitz Boks downed arch-rivals New Zealand 26-17 in Port Elizabeth last month to lift the title in front of 36 504 ecstatic fans.
South Africa are top seeds and head Pool A for the New Zealand tournament, while runners-up New Zealand, thirdplaced Australia and fourth semifinalist Argentina head the remaining pools.
The in-form South Africans will be confident of progressing to the knockout stage in Wellington after being drawn against the US, France and Japan.
Port Elizabeth runners-up New Zealand, the defending series champions, will play England, as well as Canada and Papua New Guinea in Pool B.
Australia head Pool C as the thirdplaced team in South Africa and face Fiji (second in the standings), Wales and Port Elizabeth Shield winners Portugal.
Argentina will play Scotland, Kenya and Samoa in the other group.
– George Byron