Dubai champions South Africa have set their sights on a first ever home triumph when the International Rugby Board’s Sevens Series moves to George this weekend.
Rugby 365 reports that hosts South Africa have never won on home soil, but their victory against England in Dubai a week ago has given Paul Treu’s men an extra spring to their step.
Added motivation should also come from the fact the South Africans have never made it past the quarterfinals of the ensuing tournament after a victorious one, let alone won more than one tournament per Sevens Series.
“It’s always special playing in front of your own supporters and George is a special place for us,” said SA Sevens coach, Paul Treu.
“We owe our fans a victory and they can be assured we will be doing everything in our power to give them the win they’ve been waiting for. There is a burning desire in this team to finally win at home, more so now following our victory in Dubai last weekend.”
Treu will, however, have to do without one of his most experienced campaigners on Friday and Saturday after forward Marius Schoeman injured his wrist in Dubai.
Treu has turned to the young and inexperienced Ian Aadendorff and Mlindazwe Nqoro as back-up.
But while the team he will field throughout the two days is far less experienced than was the case last season – he has also lost Fabian Juries – he will still have the likes of captain Mzwandile Stick to call on for inspiration, as well as SA Sevens Player of the Year, Renfred Dazel.
Stick was in fabulous form in Dubai, with his outstanding drop-kicking a stand-out feature.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the players and they not only believe in themselves, but those men around them too,” added Treu.
Stick was instrumental in ensuring South Africa progressed to the Cup final last weekend, when his last-gasp conversion against Fiji in the semifinal forced the match into extra-time, before landing a monster drop-goal to see his team through.
The Boks then beat England 19-12 in the final to capture their third Dubai title.
But if South Africa are to go all the way here, they had better beware of a wounded New Zealand.
The Kiwis came up short against England in the semifinals a week ago and will be keen to make up for that slip-up by defending their George title.
The men from New Zealand dominated the Sevens circuit last year, and have especially done well in George.
They, together with England and the likes of Fiji, Samoa and even Argentina, will be out to ensure this will be no fairytale start to the new season for Treu and his charges.
Lest we forget England, who have impressed all and sundry with a resurgent amount of self-belief, or so it seemed in Dubai, that gave them the prowess to topple New Zealand in the semifinals last weekend.
It’s [self-belief] something we’ve worked on and there’s various things we’ve done to accentuate that…everything we’ve done has come from the players,” said England Sevens coach, Ben Ryan.
“Even at 0-12 down in the final [last weekend], we were very relaxed and thought we were going to win…it didn’t work out that way!
“But we were certainly in with a shout and I think the boys have got that self-belief now, backed up with some decent performances so we can only get better.”
Sporting some exciting youngsters, South African fans can look forward to seeing how former Ikeys and SA Under-20 wing Matthew Turner fares in England colours. He’ll be making his debut with Rees Crane, touted as the quickest man in the Bath squad, while 18-year-old Charlie Simpson-Daniel is sure to be another crowd-pleaser.
England also made their mark without the likes of Ben Gollings last weekend – the most capped player in the England Sevens outfit.
“It wasn’t an issue [that Gollings didn't play], none of the boys were really worried about it…whereas before the tournament, one player I wouldn’t want to have missing is Ben,” added Ryan.
“It’s part of the bullet-proof model that we’re trying to get at. It really didn’t affect us [last weekend], and Ben is now fit for this weekend which is great.”
Hosted at the picturesque Outeniqua Park, the George Sevens promises to provide another enthralling weekend of fast-paced action, and as New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens so rightly put it, “it’s anyone’s tournament.”
Day One schedule:
(Kick-off is local time – GMT + 2 hours)
Match 1: Fiji v Scotland 11:37
Match 2: Argentina v Zimbabwe 11:59
Match 3: Samoa v Wales 12:21
Match 4: Kenya v Portugal 12:43
Match 5; New Zealand v France 13:05
Match 6: England v Tunisia 13:27
Match 7: South Africa v USA 13:49
Match 8: Australia v Georgia 14:11
Match 9: Fiji v Zimbabwe 14:43
Match 10: Argentina v Scotland 15:05
Match 11: Samoa v Portugal 15:27
Match 12: Kenya v Wales 15:49
Match 13: New Zealand v Tunisia 16:11
Match 14: England v France 16:33
Match 15: South Africa v Georgia 16:55
Match 16: Australia v USA 17:17
Match 17: Scotland v Zimbabwe 17:49
Match 18: Wales v Portugal 18:11
Match 19: France v Tunisia 18:33
Match 20: USA v Georgia 18:55
Match 21: Fiji v Argentina 19:32
Match 22: Samoa v Kenya 19:54
Match 23: New Zealand v England 20:16
Match 24: South Africa v Australia 20:38