A day after arriving in the French capital, the Springbok Sevens team have been reinvigorated by the arrival of new team members, a hint of deja vu and the realisation that the sun did rise after a seventh placed finish at the HSBC London Sevens.
Three new faces joined the squad today, as Cecil Afrika, Dewald Human and Mfundo Ndhlovu all brought smiles and some pent-up energy to the team, having replaced Stedman Gans, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Selvyn Davids for the weekend’s HSBC Paris Sevens, the last of the ten tournaments in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The deja vu comes from last year, where the Blitzboks pulled the World Series crown out of the grasp of Fiji to win a consecutive series title, with three new faces also joining them prior to that finale in Stade Jean-Bouin. Like then, the new members brought smiles and confidence from Stellenbosch, something that Werner Kok says, will help them this weekend, where they face Australia, Wales and Kenya in Pool B.
“We needed their arrival to bring that energy, as we are hard on ourselves and a bit down following London,” said Neil Powell. “They came smiling and believing, so we are all back to deliver a determined effort.”
The last two days also delivered some introspection, with coach Powell requesting the players to analyse and provide feedback on their own performances at Twickenham.
That exercise delivered some positive results, Kok said.
“We all had a good look at ourselves and what we did on the weekend. The stats were not that bad, to be honest, but we did let ourselves down at crucial times. Our decision-making was not that great and we did not play directly enough at times.”
Kok, in his 47th tournament in the series, said the review did provide some good elements of play as well, and it is those that will be continued in Paris.
“We did take in a lot by watching our games and do some self-analysis. We did the same in Vancouver and Singapore, in fact, and had good results after that. I think we will be ready this weekend, especially as the three new guys will also be bringing it on.”
The team had the third best defensive record in London, third best tackle completion rate and with Fiji, have 22 wins in their last 30 outings, the best winning percentage on the series.
Kok has made 115 tackles so far, third highest on the series.
“There was one or two that I missed, so will be making up for that this weekend,” he said.