The Blitzboks, who are the defending champion in the World Sevens Series, will be keen to be the early pace-setters in the new campaign again with a win at this weekend’s Cape Town tournament.
Neil Powell’s charges already laid down a big marker last week as they eased to the first title of 2017/18 in Dubai.
And the prospects of another win look pretty rosy.
South African rugby is, justifiably sometimes, a bit suspicious of having a lot of experienced players in one group.
It has happened before that these players underperform and become complacent.
But not this team.
The Blitzboks boast a massive 458 combined tournament appearances, with four of them – Chris Dry (63), Kyle Brown (59), Branco du Preez (56) and Cecil Afrika (54) – having played more than 50.
Only two members of this side, Philip Snyman and Kyle Brown, are aged 30.
There are no old legs, just wise men in their prime.
“That experience is very important and helps in tight situations,” said Dry.
Senatla and co’s quick reintegration
There were quite a few of players who had played quite a lot of fifteens before this campaign.
In some cases, like Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith, they played more 15-man rugby than sevens for the first time in their careers.
Earlier this week, Senatla even admitted that switching back to sevens is far more difficult than the other way around.
The Blitzboks couldn’t afford those men taking too long to get back into their grooves and, thankfully, it didn’t prove to be the case.
Those two stars were in the thick of things in Dubai and look in red-hot form again.
A proven game-plan
Sevens rugby is casually associated with twinkle-toed players running amok and scoring tries.
That’s not actually how the Blitzboks do things.
Yes, they score a lot of tries but they do so through a counterattacking approach.
The immense tackling of men like Smith, Dry and captain Philip Snyman, South Africa pressure opponents into making mistakes and then pounce.
Their physicality, suffocation and organisation is something opponents just can’t seem to cope with at the moment.
And it’s worked a treat for years now.
For some teams, playing at home is a bit of a curse because the pressure of high expectations gets to them.
It was initially a problem for the Blitzboks before their breakthrough in 2008.
In the past decade, South Africa have appeared in six finals of their home torunament and won four of them.
Despite the loss in last year’s final, even then the scoreline was a narrow 17-19.
A cheery bench
Picking your replacements is not as easy as its sounds.
Some of these men at a certain stage become frustrated with only having to make an impact later in a match.
Powell, though, has nailed this dynamic.
In most games, he actually plays “two” teams in each half, creating an environment where various players actually are afforded equal game-time and responsibility.
In fact, during last season’s campaign, the Blitzboks were sometimes guilty of having to rely too much on their “second-half” team to win them matches.
Nonetheless, the strategy works great.