In the 12-year history of the (IRB Sevens) World Series South Africa has been an ever-present, both as a participating team and as a host venue, but only once have the Springbok Seven emerged victorious on home soil.
In December 2008 Paul Treu‘s side rode a tidal wave of fervant support and passion, jinking and sprinting their way to the Cup title in George. For Treu the success was a long time coming, having competed for South Africa as a player, a captain and coach since the Series began in 1999.
Paul Treu catching some pitch-side Zzzzz in Dubai (Pic: Lynne Keeling)
Only a smattering of those champion players of 2008 remain in the current squad – scrum half Paul Delport and the giant Frankie Horne two stand-outs – but a new generation has already emerged, hungry to claim a second home title at a new venue in Port Elizabeth.
“To win your home tournament is every country’s dream, it’s something that you watch and you plan and work towards and we’ve put in 17 weeks of preparation coming into the new season,” said Treu.
“This is the only opportunity we get to play at home and we can’t wait another 10 years to win on home soil again. This is our opportunity and the opportunity is now.”
One crucial piece of the jigsaw for Treu and his side is the inclusion of IRB Sevens Player of the Year, Cecil Afrika.
Afrika suffered a rib injury at the season-opener in Australia two weeks ago, but sat out the 2011 Dubai Sevens to nurse himself to a speedy recovery.
Afrika back for the Boks
“Cecil is definitely going to play, he passed his fitness test and we would like to get him on the park as soon as possible. We can’t wait for him to pull that jersey on and he’s also very excited to start here.”
The (Nelson Mandela Bay) South Africa Sevens, to be played at the superb Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, is already the third round of the new season, following quickly off the back of Rounds 1 and 2 in Australia’s Gold Coast and Dubai last weekend.
So far Fiji have been the most consistent side, having won in Australia and reached the Cup semi finals in Dubai. They top the standings by seven points from Dubai champions England, but there is a raft of teams within easy reach and Treu believes the Series is wide open.
“At the moment things are pretty even. New Zealand and Fiji set the standard in the first tournament and then neither side made the final in Dubai. We made the semi final in Gold Coast, and now England and France have contested a final in Dubai.
Treu: England, Fiji & France the teams to beat
“For me, France have been playing well for a lot of tournaments and were unlucky at times last season; England always start the new season well; Fiji seem to be hitting the high notes again and hitting their stride, and they may be the teams to beat.
“For us the important thing is to generate excitement. I want them to go out there and feel the energy, enjoy every single moment. A home tournament might not come again for these players and they have to go out there, live every second and just enjoy it.”
To Vuvo or not to Vuvo?!
As for the fans, should they bring the vuvuzelas that caused such an international stir during the FIFA World Cup, from this very stadium and others, or leave them at home?
“Yes, the fans should bring them!” insisted Treu. “We are going to need it, we are all going to need the energy. This is the third tournament, they are all a bit tired, so what we all need is for the people to turn up and bring the energy, bring the vibe and inspire our players to better things.”
(Additional image by Nezesaussi Grill, Dubai)
Click here to listen to Paul Treu ahead of the Nelson Mandela Bay SA Sevens
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