Heinz Schenk
3 minute read
30 Nov 2017
3:24 pm

Four things the Blitzboks need to get right to stay top dogs

Heinz Schenk

The new World Sevens Series starts in Dubai on Friday and Neil Powell's troops look in great shape. But they can't rest on their laurels.

Blitzboks coach Neil Powell. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

The Blitzboks begin the defence of their World Sevens Series crown on Friday when the Dubai leg of the campaign kicks off.

Neil Powell’s troops could hardly have wished for a more stable platform to work from.

There’s continuity within the group, clear vision and strong leadership.

However, in a competitive environment like this circuit, nothing can be taken for granted.

These are a few things the Blitzboks need to get spot-on to remain top dogs.

The stars in the 15-man game need to perform immediately

Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla are darlings of the world sevens game.

This is the tournament where they’ve made their mark and scooped up numerous accolades.

But those two players – as well as Tim Agaba – have set their sights on the bigger prize: a Springbok cap.

Smith and Senatla have actually, for the first time in their respective careers, played more 15-man rugby than sevens this year.

They’ve performed with distinction but it also means they might still be in a 15-man “groove”.

Can they quickly revert back to their good sevens habits?

Powell probably wouldn’t have picked them if he didn’t believe that they could settle in quickly again.

But Smith and Senatla can’t, for example, waste two tournaments getting back to form when they’re only available for four.

Know there’s a target on the back but don’t get spooked

It’s only natural that opponents will be far more keen to slay the Blitzboks this season given how comfortably they won the previous title.

South Africa truly were a step ahead of the rest in consistency and class.

A mistake many successful teams make is that they then believe they need to change dramatically to stay ahead.

That’s not necessary.

There can be the odd tweak but the Blitzboks’ counterattacking strategy, which rests much on defence, could still be a trump card.

After all, eight men in the squad of 13 recently played fifteens and would’ve significantly improved their contact skills.

It should translate into them being even more aggressive on defence.

Be different … but not too much.

Don’t over-rely on the impact players

One of the joys of watching the Blitzboks last season was their ability to almost play two different teams in every half.

It showcased not only the skill levels of the players but also the depth.

However, there were isolated instances where the starting team looked a bit flat and seemingly banked on the replacements to provide a spark.

It worked more often than not but it shouldn’t be allowed to become a habit.

Nothing beats a really good platform laid in the first half.

Ignore the talk over their coach

The indications are that Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will be dismissed when the national team returns from Europe.

That doesn’t only lead to speculation on who’ll replace him but also complaints over the need for the Boks to be more skilled.

As a result, Powell has already been asked earlier this week whether he would be willing to help the national fifteens with some specialised coaching.

He was typically graceful about the matter.

That said, there’s still no confirmation on Coetzee’s future so there’s no need for the Blitzboks to worry about the future of their mentor.

It’s all business as usual … for now.

The Blitzboks’ schedule for Friday: 

08:59 – Uganda

12:46 – Kenya

17:53 – Canada.

ALSO READ:

https://citizen.co.za/sport/south-africa-sport/sa-rugby-sport/1743150/kwagga-smith-back-to-square-one-fat-chance/

For more sport your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.