Given how many key players they lost in the off-season, there won’t be too many observers denying that they’ll face a challenging new World Sevens Series campaign.
However, a sixth-placed finish last week in Dubai wasn’t quite on the agenda.
The national sevens pipeline is far too sophisticated for something like that to happen.
It’s little wonder then that various players this week stated that South Africa need to right the wrong in the desert, where they “messed up”.
If they’re going to change their fortunes in Cape Town from Saturday, this is what the Blitzboks will need to get right.
Rookies need to show more composure
It does feel a bit tacky to single out youngsters when things go wrong for a sports team, especially when a player like Impi Visser only made his debut in Dubai.
Unfortunately, it was the rookies that unwittingly contributed to the Blitzboks’ troubles.
Visser was yellow carded at a crucial stage of the final pool game against Argentina and also needs to work on his ball protection.
Ryan Oosthuizen made a promising start before struggling later with his defensive positioning and knocking on a couple of times.
The good thing is that coach Neil Powell has backed them for Cape Town and that will surely give them confidence.
But they can’t be clumsy and inconsistent again.
Be aware of being beaten at their own game
For two years, the Blitzboks’ success has been built on ruthless counterattacking brought about by gritty defence and disruption at the breakdown.
It truly has served Powell’s troops well.
But Dubai illustrated that some teams have caught up by employing the same tactics.
England beat South Africa in the Cup quarters by unashamedly playing Blitzboks rugby, while Samoa and Argentina focused on being physical in the collisions, something that seemed to catch the Blitzboks off guard.
It’s unlikely the South Africans will suddenly change their style of play, meaning they’ll simply have to make sure they dominate the physical exchanges instead of the other way round.
Don’t overestimate New Zealand
There was a gasp at the beginning of the week when the draw for this weekend’s tournament saw the Blitzboks draw the All Blacks.
It was with good reason: New Zealand won in Dubai last week.
However, veteran Chris Dry stated that South Africa need not fear the men in black, particularly since they have an excellent recent record against the old enemy.
New Zealand also go into the weekend without six regular players due to injuries.
That’s a tough blow for most sides to absorb and there surely must be a likelihood of the All Blacks being a bit disjointed.
The Blitzboks should thus target finishing top of their group instead of wondering who’ll they face in the playoffs should they lose.
Werner Kok believes the South Africans struggled in Dubai because there were too many players being individualistic.
It’s true that the Blitzboks’ DNA is based on teamwork, but it’s also relied heavily in the past on the individual skill of men like Fabian Juries, Cecil Afrika and Seabelo Senatla.
Justin Geduld is back in harness following a knock that kept him sidelined for four matches last weekend.
In the two games he did play, the 25-year-old was outstanding, pulling the strings expertly as the South Africans showed variety and potency on attack.
His presence will be vital and should his teammates allow him to direct them, the sailing might be much more smoother this weekend.