His side’s disappointing start to the 2009/2010 IRB Sevens World Sevens season and yet another loss of key players to injury and provincial/Super Rugby commitments. These are once again the variables that has forced Paul Treu to re-think his strategy when the Series re-starts in Wellington this weekend.
The South African Sevens team is in New Zealand without the injured trio of captain, Paul Delport, Neil Powell and Renfred Dazel. During the off-season the team who won the IRB Sevens World Series, also lost a number of key players to provincial unions and Super Rugby franchises.
And to top it all, on Friday the team will have to fight it out against home team and tournament favourites, New Zealand, and Sevens World Cup holders Wales for one of the two top pool positions and passage to the knock-out stages. Niue makes up the fourth team in Pool A.
Cowboys don’t cry
While Springbok flyhalf legend Naas Botha famously coined this phrase, the BlitzBokke coach simply said: “It is no use to cry over those losses. Yes, losing those players plus the injuries all had an impact, probably bigger than we expected, but those are the typical challenges you must confront in any sport. We had plenty of time to reflect and to look at what went wrong, but we have to be positive and readjust our focus. One of the positives is that we now have the opportunity to blood four new players who come with a different sort of energy, enthusiasm and ambition.”
The four new youngsters, Philip van der Walt, Hoffman Maritz, Steven Hunt and Branco du Preez, are all Under-21 players, and they impressed Treu while playing for the SA Vipers in warm-up tournaments.
Reading our game-plan
Treu also admits that his team must come to terms with the fact that opposing teams had succeeded in nullifying their strong points.
“Teams definitely have adopted a certain way to play us, especially at the breakdown slowing us down and stopping our forward momentum, so we are going to need to come up with a way to counter that too. We need to be more clever and adapt our playing style to make up for some of the quality we are missing compared with last season,” explains the SA Sevens coach.
NZ & Vegas may make or break our season
Treu describes the Wellington and Las Vegas tournaments as the two most difficult challenges on the very competitive Series: “The time-difference and travel make these two events tougher for us. We are in a strong pool and it will not be easy going. Niue is an unknown factor, but Wales and New Zealand are two big games and we will have to be at our best from the start.”
“And even if we qualify for the next stage then we will have to beat the likes of Fiji and Samoa, two big crowd favourites here, and England of course, who are the defending their title.”
New Zealand leads the Series with 48 points after impressive victories in Dubai and George while South Africa is in eighth place on 16 points.
The Springbok Sevens squad is (SARU contracted unless indicated):
Mpho Mbiyozo, Chase Minnaar, Frankie Horne, Cecil Afrika, Kyle Brown, Ryno Benjamin, Mzwandile Stick (captain), Marius Schoeman, Steven Hunt (Vodacom Western Province U21), Hoffman Maritz, Philip van der Walt (both Vodacom Free State U21), Branco du Preez (Vodacom Blue Bulls U21).