The HSBC London Sevens tournament will provide the Blitzboks SA Sevens side with a final opportunity during the current season to showcase their skills and to play together as a team, so they want to deliver a good result.
This is according to regular playmaker Rosco Speckman. South Africa face Kenya, Wales, and the USA in Pool A of the tournament, the final one of the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Speckman, who proved to be a real talisman for the World Series champions in 2017, appreciates the fact that this will be the last opportunity for this current squad to play together. ‘We have been training since September last year and have been in each other’s company since then, so we have established a wonderful bond,’ said Speckman.
‘We really are a band of brothers. This tournament will be the last for this group to play together and we want to make it special.’
South Africa clinched the series when they won their fifth tournament in Paris last weekend and will officially be crowned champions on Sunday, another motivation for the team to give it one more push, Speckman feels. ‘The pressure to win the series is gone, but we are still under pressure from ourselves to deliver a performance to be proud out,’ said Speckman.
‘I think though, we will also be out to celebrate our successes this year by expressing ourselves and play with joy.’
Last year, the Blitzboks came to Twickenham still within the grasp of the overall series title, but Fiji gained enough points to retain the series trophy. South Africa made the final, but suffered a heart-breaking loss when Scotland scored the winning points after the final buzzer.
‘That was very disappointing yes, we felt terrible. But that was also the start of us making finals, and we learned from that experience. So although we lost that one, we learned valuable lessons that helped us win five finals out of eight since,’ Speckman said.
The Grahamstown-raised player has often swung the momentum of tight matches towards South Africa with his attacking prowess and was named Player of the Final in Las Vegas.
‘Those accolades are great, but it remains a team effort. I will still want to go out and make the tournament’s Dream Team, but my responsibilities within our structures will come first,’ said Speckman, who scored 17 tries this season, including a spectacular one in the semi-final of the HSBC Paris Sevens against New Zealand last weekend.
The team’s leading points’ scorer of all time, Cecil Afrika, credited the coaching staff for much of the success the team enjoyed this season. ‘They really put a foundation in place for us, with the preparations and game plan. We just need to go out and execute that,’ Afrika said.
‘We go into every match with a proper plan and the coach gives us pretty clear instructions. Within that structure, we then go out and put our bodies on the line for our teammates and country. That is why we were successful this year.’
The 29-year-old was a rookie squad member of the 2008/09 team that won the World Series, but did not play in any tournaments.
The Blitzboks’ match schedule for Saturday is (SA times):
12.20pm vs Kenya
3.26pm vs Wales
6.32pm vs USA
Stats and facts:
Cecil Afrika could extend his South African record for career points in the series. He is currently on 1273 points.
Branco du Preez could extend his South African record for career conversions in the series. He is currently on 327 conversions.
Marco Labuschagne could make his debut for the Springbok Sevens team, should he take to the field.
South Africa could win a record sixth tournament title in one season should they be victorious in London.
South Africa have won the HSBC London Sevens on two previous occasions, in 2005 and 2011.
The South African squad (with tournaments and points) for the HSBC London Sevens are:
1 Chris Dry (61; 450)
2 Philip Snyman (captain, 46; 291)
3 Dylan Sage (16; 95)
4 Ryan Oosthuizen (3, 0)
5 Werner Kok (28; 345)
6 Siviwe Soyizwapi (11; 155)
7 Branco du Preez (54; 1043)
8 Sandile Ngcobo (5; 20)
9 Dewald Human (1; 2)
10 Cecil Afrika (52; 1273)
11 Rosko Speckman (20; 258)
12 Ruhan Nel (20; 172)
13 Marco Labuschagne (0, 0)*