Back to basics for BlitzBoks
SPOTLIGHT: A year ago, Branco du Preez etched his name into the BlitzBoks and World Sevens Series history books when he assisted South Africa to a historic come-from-behind win over Fiji.
His exploits in Los Angeles saw him first score a try and then kick a clutch conversion that forced extra time in the final of the USA tournament, which South African went on to win thanks to a sudden death try by Sako Makata.
A week later, Vancouver closed out what proved to be the final tournament of the World Series in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world.
There are, however, exciting times ahead as South Africa will take the field in Madrid in two weeks’ time in the first of two warm-up tournaments this year.
The tournaments in Spain, which have been arranged by World Rugby to prepare the teams that have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, will be played on consecutive weekends – from February 19 to 21 and February 26 to 28 – at Campo UCM Central in Madrid.
For Du Preez – South Africa’s most capped World Series player with 76 tournaments – it will be “exciting” to be back, although their return will be as measured as the kicking style that brought him fame a year ago in the USA.
“We need to approach the start of this new season the same way one approaches a kick for poles,” said Du Preez. “Go through the basic set-up, make sure you strike the sweet spot and follow through.”
With the squad deprived of match action for so long, the BlitzBok sweeper is convinced that the good work on the training field will be rewarded.
“We have tried a couple of new things, made small tweaks to things we did not do that well last time around and we focussed on getting everyone aligned.
“We need to hit that sweet spot early to get the momentum the team likes to play with,” Du Preez said.
The team’s training sessions have also been geared towards the three-day nature of the tournaments in Spain.
“Our training loads are based on being able to do your best for those three days of the tournament, so I am positive that we will be able to respond to that aspect of play.”
The World Series veteran said starting from scratch again has not only tested their bodies, but also their minds.
“I think mental health has become as important as physical well-being, and it is no different in our squad,” he said.
“We have worked on both those aspects and that should work well for us come the trying times that tournaments will demand from us.”
He has played and won all around the world and helped bring his country glory on so many podiums but taking the field in Madrid will be as important as those past glories for Du Preez.
“This will be hugely important for the squad to get onto the field,” said Du Preez.
“You can only measure your progress and how prepared you are by playing matches against opponents and we are keen to start doing that and to get some normality back into the game we love so much.”
* Picture credit: Eunice Visagie
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) February 2, 2021