The Blitzboks head into Friday’s opening day of the HSBC France Sevens, at the Stade Ernest-Wallon, with the knowledge that they came prepared and capable to retain their slender six point lead at the top of the World Rugby Sevens Series standings.
The last-minute setback in Cape Town, when Selvyn Davids was withdrawn on medical grounds, is in the past and his replacement and Springbok Sevens debutant, Dalvon Blood, has slotted in seamlessly, as the team went through their paces and prepare to go into the tournament, where they will face Ireland, Spain and Samoa in Pool D.
The Blitzboks start the Toulouse tournament, the seventh in the 2022 World Series, on the back of some wobbly performances in the previous leg of the tour, where they – as defending champions at both events – finished seventh in Singapore and fifth in Vancouver.
Springbok Sevens captain Siviwe Soyizwapi said their pool for the weekend is similar to the one they played in in Canada, where they lost to Samoa in the Cup quarter-finals.
“We will play similar type of teams again,” said Soyizwapi.
“We had Samoa and Spain in Vancouver and play Ireland this time as well. They are all good teams in our pool, so we are looking towards a very competitive weekend. Spain showed us how well they can keep the ball alive in our previous encounter and we will not take them lightly.
“Ireland have been doing very well in recent times and have been together as a team for a while now, so they are formidable opponents.
“Samoa’s physicality proved a challenge for us last time around, so we need to be better when we face them this weekend. We have prepared well though and are looking forward to the weekend.
“We trained well since we arrived here and I loved the attitude the players showed during those sessions, especially our defence session. That is normally our toughest session of the week, and the guys really came through that well, so we are ready to play. This is another opportunity for us, and we want to grab it with both hands.”
The Toulouse tournament could also provide a significant milestone to Branco du Preez, already South Africa’s most capped player who has won more World Series tournaments than any other South African.
Du Preez, who is playing in his 80th tournament, ran onto the field 400 times already and scored no less than 1 409 points in the Green and Gold. Amongst those are 99 tries and the sweeper/scrumhalf is well aware of that elusive 100th try.
“Yes, I don’t need to be reminded of that, that is something I really want to achieve,” said Du Preez with a broad smile.
“Stats are irrelevant when you contribute towards the team, your try will come sometime, so I am not going out looking for it. We all have a job to do on the field and if everyone does that properly and I am in the right position, the try will come.
“Make no mistake, stats matter for a player and I would like to score 100 career tries, but my job at hand comes first when I play for the Springbok Sevens.”
Du Preez missed the tournaments in Singapore and Vancouver due to a shoulder injury, but is back and ready to contribute to the Blitzbok surge towards a second consecutive World Series title.
“I am excited about what we can bring to the tournament this weekend, if our training sessions were anything to go by. The guys really worked hard at home to be ready for this one and the sessions here showed that commitment and form. That excites me and I can’t wait to go this weekend.”
With Blood in line to make his Springbok Sevens debut, Du Preez, who can still recall his very first match for the Blitzboks, gave a ringing endorsement of the debutant.
“We have seen him play and we know what he can do – he can bring some magic and I am very happy for him,” said Du Preez, who handed Blood his very first Blitzbok training jersey earlier in the week.
“Every young kid dream of becoming a Blitzbok player. He was no different and now he gets his chance. He is a great guy off the field too, so I am really pleased for him.”
Toulouse Sevens match schedule
Friday, 20 May
v Ireland – 12:00
v Spain – 18:28
Saturday 21 May
v Samoa – 12:22
A: Argentina, England, Canada, Japan
B: Fiji, France, Wales, Kenya
C: Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, USA
D: Samoa, South Africa, Ireland, Spain
Springbok Sevens squad for the HSBC France Sevens in Toulouse:
James Murphy – 7 tournaments, 26 matches, 20 points (4 tries)
Ryan Oosthuizen – 29 tournaments, 138 matches, 150 points (30 tries)
Impi Visser – 19 tournaments, 96 matches, 95 points (19 tries)
Zain Davids – 30 tournaments, 151 matches, 145 points (29 tries)
Tiaan Pretorius – 2 tournaments, 7 matches, 5 points (1 try)
JC Pretorius – 18 tournaments, 96 matches, 210 points (42 tries)
Branco du Preez – 79 tournaments, 400 matches, 1409 points (99 tries, 454 conversions, 1 penalty goal, 1 drop goal)
Dalvon Blood – uncapped
Ronald Brown – 6 tournaments, 35 matches, 232 points (22 tries, 61 conversions)
Dewald Human – 15 tournaments, 66 matches, 195 points (15 tries, 60 conversions)
Siviwe Soyizwapi – 37 tournaments, 193 matches, 625 points (125 tries)
Muller du Plessis – 16 tournaments, 78 matches, 285 points (57 tries)
Mfundo Ndhlovu – 8 tournaments, 37 matches, 40 points (8 tries)