Johannesburg – Fleet-footed Fabian Juries is fit and could be the catalyst for the Springboks in Hong Kong, where the fifth tournament in the 2007/08 IRB World Sevens Series takes place from Friday to Sunday.
After missing two season’s because of injuries, the already legendary Juries is the leading try scorer with 24 from the first four tournaments in his comeback series. His total of 156 tries is now 181 less that Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Corda, who is on 181 and has scored only 11 tries this year.
Springbok coach Paul Treu feels Juries is the man who could see the Springboks win the Hong Kong title for the first time.
“He is a special player,” said Treu before the team’s departure for Hong Kong. “If Fabian is on form, we will have a great chance in this tournament.” Although Treu is without injured stalwarts Marius Schoeman and Tobela Mdaka he is upbeat about his team’s chances.
Treu points to the fact the Boks have played in two semi-finals, one final and one a plate in the preceding four tournaments of the present series, and that they have beaten all the top sides with the exception of New Zealand, whom they pushed all the way in the San Diego final.
It’s well-nigh impossible to catch the All Blacks in the remaining four tournaments of the IRB World Sevens Series. They are 32 points ahead of the Boks, who are second after four tournaments in the series.
However, the Springboks can go a long way towards securing the second spot in Hong Kong if they win. The fifth tournament in the IRB World Sevens Series carries 30 log points for the winner compared to the 20 in the other tournaments in the IRB Series.
As important in Hong Kong as a tournament win is the performance of the Boks with a view to next year’s World Cup in Dubai.
South Africa have been seeded third for the Hong Kong tournament where the format puts pressure on the competing sides to win their pools.
The 24 teams are divided into six pools of four teams each and only the six group winners will progress to the quarter-finals together with the two second placed teams with the best records.
Argentina have been drawn in the same pool as South Africa, together with Russia and Japan. The latter two sides are unlikely to surprise, and Argentina will be the team to beat if South Africa want to ensure a quarter-final berth.
Two favourite sides
New Zealand, now with 36 successive wins and six tournament wins in a row, should easily despatch of the Unites States, Tunisia and Chinese Taipei in Pool A, notwithstanding the USA’s improved form this year.
Samoa, seeded second, should see off a resurgent England in Pool B, although Canada could play a role in eliminating on of the two favourite sides in this pool. Sri Lanka are the fourth side.
Fiji’s only real competition in Pool D will come from Wales, while Zimbabwe and Korea are not expected to extend the Pacific Island unduly.
Kenya, on a real mission, are seeded fifth, and have the ever-improving Scotland and Portugal to beat to top Pool E with China the other competitor.
In Pool F Australia, Tonga and France will have an even contest which will probably only be decided on a technical point, with home side Hong Kong also in their pool.