Blitzboks ready to kick off exciting new season in Dubai
The Springbok Sevens kick off their 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series campaign with a testing encounter against fast-improving Ireland on the first day of the season-opening Dubai Sevens tournament, which starts on Friday.
The new season will start for the Blitzboks at 7.32am (SA time), when they lock horns with the Irish, followed by their other two Pool C matches on Friday — against Japan (11.24am) and Great Britain (2.40pm).
SA are the defending champions after their unbeaten run in the shortened 2021 World Series held in Canada in September.
Unfortunately for Neil Powell’s side, prolific wing Angelo Davids is still injured.
Davids set a new individual try-scoring record for the Vancouver event with 10 tries, but fractured his hand in the final against Kenya and is still not fit enough to return.
Four other players who featured in Canada were also ruled out, but the Blitzboks will be boosted by the presence of the experienced Branco du Preez and Impi Visser.
If the Blitzboks enjoy a clean sweep of wins in the pool stages and then win their quarterfinal, they would match their best-ever World Series winning streak of 16 matches, set between 2008-2009.
The Springbok Sevens and Ireland — who impressed in reaching the Vancouver semifinals — have the honour of kicking off the men’s competition in the 2022 World Series.
The Blitzboks will need no reminding that they were held to a 19-19 draw the last time they met in Los Angeles in February 2020.
With the popular Dubai event starting on Friday, Powell said this week’s training week felt like a short week, but he was nevertheless happy with the team’s preparations.
“We had a good week here, though we’ve done most of our preparation work in Stellenbosch,” Powell said.
“So it was a case of fine-tuning to make sure everyone is on the same page and that the guys are ready to get going.”
With a few familiar players missing from the squad due to injury, the Blitzboks have included two uncapped players in Tiaan Pretorius (forward) and Shilton van Wyk (outside back), and Powell is looking forward to the two newcomers getting their first taste of World Series action.
“They’ve been training with us for the last 18 months, so they know what is expected of them,” he said.
“Shilton is a very elusive runner and I think if he gets ball in hand, he will surprise a few people with his speed and his evasive skills.
“He showed some of that in the recent tournament against Kenya and Uganda and if he gets his opportunity, I think he will do well.
“Tiaan is a hard worker and has good aerial skills, so I’m looking forward to giving the two of them their first caps and to see how they go.”
The women’s final will take place at 4.56pm on Saturday, followed by the men’s final at 5.26pm (SA times).
The Blitzboks’ opening day fixtures: 7.32am: Blitzboks v Ireland; 11.24am: Blitzboks v Japan; 2.40pm: Blitzboks v Great Britain
SA Rugby Communications
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