With try-scoring machine Seabelo Senatla back in the team, the side will be aiming to reclaim the Series lead at the Prince Chichibu Stadium. South Africa lost to New Zealand in the Final of the Wellington leg the last time the two teams met and that result also handed the World Series lead back to their rivals. Should the Springboks defend the title they won 12 months ago in Tokyo, it would allow them to reclaim pole position on the points table.
Speaking to the Japanese media ahead of the event, South Africa Sevens coach Neil Powell said his charges have no wish to become too caught up in the World Series title race.
“The squad is really looking forward to their title defence this weekend in Tokyo,” said Powell. He added he would seek to use the experience gained by his team at the same venue last year to assist them in their challenge of defending their title. “We will fall back on the guys that were here last year, and especially the management, considering I have never played or coached here before. We must not get too caught up on the table and the log points because we will place too much pressure on ourselves. It is all about the process, and if we do things well on the field the outcomes will follow,” according to Powell.
Despite going down to New Zealand in the Wellington Cup Final, the Springbok Sevens approach their Tokyo challenge with a rich vein of good form. After their fourth place at the season-opening tournament in Australia, South Africa have reached the last four Cup finals this season and their mantra has been consistency. While many think the season boils down to a two-horse race, Powell admits Fiji and England could still upset the apple cart with big performances in the remaining four rounds.
“Fiji is a great team and England are playing some good rugby at the moment,” added Powell.
“I think any of us could (still) win the Series. If either New Zealand or us slip up in one of the tournaments, the other sides will have a chance, so it is important to tick that consistency box. We want to reach at least the semi-finals and hopefully we can do that here as well as next week in Hong Kong.”
Junior Springbok Senatla will provide extra speed in an already quick backline, while Justin Geduld takes over the flyhalf duties in place of Cecil Afrika who was unable to travel to the Far East because of a hamstring strain.
Pool A: New Zealand, Canada, Wales, Portugal
Pool B: South Africa, Argentina, Kenya, Japan
Pool C: Fiji, Samoa, France, United States
Pool D: England, Australia, Scotland, Spain