Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell knows that the Blitzboks will have to endure another huge physical test in Vancouver this weekend, but expects the mental challenge to his side to be even greater.
With the Blitzboks victorious in 28 of their 30 matches played in the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series so far, the target on their backs are getting bigger and England, who handed South Africa their only two defeats, will loom large in Pool A in Canada.
The Vancouver event is also the second in as many weeks, with bumps and bruises a natural consequence after some bruising matches in Las Vegas.
And the Blitzboks will have to make do without their two leading points’ scorers this season, with Seabelo Senatla (160 points) and Justin Geduld (119 points) not in Vancouver.
To Powell though, the biggest threat is his side’s mental focus.
“Unfortunately there is a lot of talk that we have the series sewn up, which cannot be further from the truth,” said Powell.
“One bad tournament, where you don’t make the semi-finals, could derail our momentum significantly. The last thing I want to players to think of is a fifth tournament win or our lead in the series and then getting ahead of themselves. We dare not to look past Chile in that first pool game.”
Chile has interestingly won the only encounter played between the two sides, by 28-21 in a pool match at Punta del Este in Uruguay in 2000.
“I don’t have to spell out how dangerous Kenya and England can be, so if we are not on top of our game, we could not even make the quarters,” Powell warned.
The South Africans have won 40 of their 46 matches against Kenya (average score 26-9) and 36 of 68 against England (average score 16-15).
“We did a solid review of our performance in Las Vegas and realised how many things we can still do better,” said Powell.
“We did some good things, but not enough to excuse us from working hard again this week to fine tune our game. I was pleased with the way we executed our ruck attack and how we kept the ball when we had possession.”
At the halfway mark of the ten-tournament series, the Blitzboks (107) hold a 24-point lead over Fiji (83), with England (81) close behind the Olympic gold medal winners.
Selected Blitzboks 2016/17 stats:
Leading points’ scorers:
1. Seabelo Senatla 160
2. Justin Geduld 119
3. Branco du Preez 102
4. Werner Kok 75
5. Cecil Afrika 60
1. Seabelo Senatla 32
2. Werner Kok 15
3. Justin Geduld 13
4. Rosko Specman 11
5. Chris Dry 11
1. Branco du Preez 41
2. Justin Geduld 27
3. Cecil Afrika 10
1. Chris Dry 81
2. Philip Snyman 76
3. Werner Kok 72
Overall team tries:
1. South Africa 129
2. Fiji 126
3. England 97