In another of his regular columns for the South African Rugby Union (SARU) Springbok Sevens mentor Paul Treu shares his thoughts on the way forward for his charges. He particularly mentions the lessons he learnt from current IRB Sevens World Series log leaders New Zealand and what he wants his players to take from it.
(By Paul Treu)
It seems apt to me that we should be in Wellington for this next tournament in the IRB Sevens World Series, because in many ways I want my team to do exactly what New Zealand have managed to do in recent times: suck up the disappointment, learn from it and get better.
I have a lot of admiration for the way New Zealand have hit back so far after what was a disappointing year for them last year. For Gordon and his side not to have won a Cup title in a season isn’t something that’s happened much in the 10 years of the Series, but you can already see how positively they have reacted by winning the first two tournaments.
I now want my players to do the same.
There is definitely still scope for us to do well this season and we still have aspirations to win things. The first two events in Dubai and George were obviously bad for us, especially as we were defending both and were for the first time the Series champions with all that comes with it.
We were without some pretty key players, and still are, but I hope that we’ve asked some pretty tough questions of ourselves over the past few weeks, in the way that New Zealand must have.
I was talking with Lote Raikabula at the end of the two events before Christmas and he was telling me how, after they had enjoyed such a superb run the season before winning 47 matches in a row and the first five tournaments, expectations had been so high as Series champions, which made last season all the more difficult for them. And we are now in a similar situation.
It’s a while since we won in Wellington, 2002, and back then I was still playing and captaining the team so it’s been eight years overdue, which is going to be a motivating factor for us. But I think even moreso at this stage, and with half an eye also on the Commonwealth Games later in the year, we want our new players to learn as much as they can and we want our experienced players to step up more than they did in Dubai and George and keep improving as a team.
We’re going to have to play a bit smarter, take the ball up more and better, be a bit more patient and I’d like to see the players really pull together and define the team and decide what this new side is going to become.
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.
You take a look at New Zealand and they have also had to do that in the past, play without genuine pace. Now they have it but they have had to learn different ways to play and that is what my guys now must do.
But there is no denying it, NZ are certainly the team to beat on their home patch. They have their forward power with DJ Forbes and whoever plays alongside him, they have Tomasi Cama and Zar Lawrence, they have Lote Raikabula who can also play in the forwards, they have Kurt Baker and now Sherwin Stowers, so they have a lot of quality and ingenuity and that makes them tough to play against.
And we have a chance to do that as early as day one, when we play them in the final pool match at the Westpac Stadium. We’re looking forward to it.