Blitzboks have ‘target on their backs’

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The Blitzboks are working to reach new standards as they go into the new season with a huge target on their backs after dominating the 2016/17 HSBC World Sevens Series.

Former Springbok Sevens captain Kyle Browne (left) and coach Neil Powell (right) Photo: Mike Holmes © The Herald.

After capturing the overall title last season by winning five of the 10 tournaments and making three more finals‚ the challenges for the coming season are three-pronged.

There is the World Series title to defend but the Blitzboks will also have to defend their Commonwealth Games crown on the Gold Coast in April 2018‚ which they won on 2014‚ and there is the small matter of the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco next July.

“We haven’t finalised our goals for the season but it’s going to be a tough balance‚” coach Neil Powell said.

“Of course we want to win all three events we are playing this year – the overall World Series‚ the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup – but the requirements are different.

“The World Series demands consistency‚ the World Cup ruthlessness because it’s a straight knockout tournament this year and the Commonwealth Games is about playing well over two days.

“Because we will play more Academy players at some World Series events it’s possible we’ll sacrifice some of that consistency and perhaps success over the course of the season.

“The priority is probably going to be on retaining the Commonwealth Games gold medal and winning the World Cup.

“We have never won the World Cup at sevens‚ which makes it a priority.

“But we’re not giving up on the World Series and our plan is to do really well at the tournaments where we are at full strength.”

The World Series kicks off in Dubai in two-weeks‚ which is followed by the sold out Cape Town leg in December before the festive season break.

“It’s a fine balance between thinking you can do the same thing and get the same results and keeping on evolving‚” Powell said.

“We will probably do things a little differently in terms of keeping players fresh‚ so we won’t take every player to every tournament.

“Three or four of the Academy players might play certain tournaments to make sure we keep top players mentally and physically fresh for once-off tournaments such as the World Cup.”

by Craig Ray – TimesLIVE

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