Blitzboks battling mental and physical fatigue in Singapore

South African Sevens head coach Neil Powell during day 2 of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens match 39, Cup Semi Final match between South Africa vs Fiji at Cape Town Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
South African Sevens head coach Neil Powell during day 2 of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens match 39, Cup Semi Final match between South Africa vs Fiji at Cape Town Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Blitzboks‚ like most teams at this weekend’s Singapore leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series‚ are battling mental and physical fatigue as the season reaches the business end.

Last week’s Hong Kong tournament was the blue riband event of the calendar and teams will have to quickly respond to their disappointment or success there in Singapore.

Blitzbok coach Neil Powell knows from experience that performances‚ not only from his side‚ but from other leading sides‚ can be flat after Hong Kong while minnow sides tend to perform well.

To safeguard against the Blitzboks struggling this week‚ he designed a programme of less training and more mental challenges.

“It is a tough one‚ getting that balance right‚” said Powell.

“We have seen in the past‚ teams are up and down come Singapore and there are reasons for that.

“We stepped off the gas a bit in training this week‚ due to the heat‚ and also had the guys chat more on what we want to achieve out there this weekend.”

They will only know on Sunday evening if it was the right strategy but Powell was pleased with the way the squad responded to the change in environment and schedule.

“They had to take a bit more ownership off the field this time‚” Powell said.

“It was pleasing to see that they got stuck in when told to do more analysing than usual and to present plans on attack‚ breakdowns and defence. This time they were doing the presentation‚ not sitting there and just listening to one.”

Powell‚ World Rugby’s Sevens Coach of 2018‚ did not sit back though. He discussed some breakdown aches with the officials‚ in order to make sure that the Blitzboks are not the most penalised in the tournament again‚ like they were in Hong Kong.

“Yes‚ I had a chat to see where we can make their jobs easier and it was productive to hear things from their perspective on where we went wrong.

“Amongst ourselves‚ we also had to chat about the attacking opportunities we created‚ but failed to convert into points‚” said Powell.

“There is a huge amount of potential in this squad. If we can eliminate those things that are holding us back‚ there is no reason why we cannot have a productive tournament.

“We are looking at a solid day one that will provide the momentum for the second day.”

Branco du Preez will equal Kyle Brown’s record as the most-capped Blitzbok in the World Series when he runs out in his 69th tournament in Singapore‚ a mark Brown achieved in Sydney earlier this year.

Du Preez is keen to embrace the opportunity.

“It is such an honour playing for this team and with these guys. I am certainly proud to be around this long.

“The weekend will be about using our opportunities and I hope I can contribute my part with that‚” said Du Preez‚ who debuted in 2010 in Wellington and has played in 344 matches for his country since.

Pools -

A: Fiji‚ South Africa‚ Scotland‚ Canada

B: France‚ Argentina‚ Australia‚ Hong Kong

C: USA‚ England‚ Kenya‚ Wales

D: Samoa‚ New Zealand‚ Japan‚ Spain

South Africa’s schedule for Saturday (SA times):

6.14am: v Scotland

9.40am: v Canada

1.28pm: v Fiji

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