If South Africa are to triumph at the Hong Kong Sevens tournament this weekend, they’re going to have to get past unbeaten New Zealand first, but Bok skipper Neil Powell says they’re not even thinking about the mighty All Blacks.
The New Zealanders have been in phenomenal form, winning all four tournaments this season, and head the points table with a whopping 80 points. South Africa are second with 48 points.
The All Blacks are overwhelming favourites to make it five out five in Hong Kong, but Powell says the Boks will start worrying about New Zealand skipper DJ Forbes’s team if, and when, they meet.
”Our focus is on Japan, our first match,” said Powell on Thursday ahead of Friday’s kick-off.
”Then we’ll worry about Russia and Argentina and then, depending on what happens in the other games, we’ll focus on our next matches. It’s a big tournament [the only one with 24 sides] and a lot can happen.
”Everyone’s talking about New Zealand, so the pressure’s on them. But if we do meet them, we’ll have a lot of confidence after pushing them close in the final of the tournament in San Diego. They’re certainly not invincible,” said Powell.
New Zealand captain Forbes paid tribute to coach Gordon Tietjens for their fabulous run this season. ”He’s been coaching at this level for 14 years and is always coming up with fresh ideas. But the players also have a lot of faith in each other.”
Asked whether the New Zealand Sevens players were out to make a point after their XV-man team’s failure at the World Cup in France last year, Forbes said there was much disappointment about that. ”So, yes, we’re looking to make it right again.”
Even though New Zealand are way out in front, Forbes said his side would not be satisfied with anything else but victory at the crown jewel of the series. ”Many people think the title’s wrapped up already, but we’re not leaving anything to chance. We want to win as many tournaments as we can to extend our lead even further.”
Besides the South Africans, who will be looking to experienced campaigners like Fabian Juries to lead the charge, the other potential winners in Hong Kong are Fiji and defending champions Samoa.
While Fiji may have had a relatively indifferent season by their own lofty standards, they’ve reached two Cup finals and can never be underestimated. They’ve also brought back veteran playmaker William Ryder from club duty in Japan.
Samoa will be keen to put an end to the New Zealanders’ domination as they seek to defend their title here, while Chinese Taipei are a good bet to cause a shock or two, especially with former Fiji great Waisale Serevi now in charge.
South Africa have appeared in only one Cup final in Hong Kong — way back in 1997 at the World Cup tournament. — Sapa