The Blitzboks will defend their crown in Sydney this weekend with new assistant coach Renfred Dazel having slotted into Blitzbok life “With ease”.
Dazel represented the Blitzboks in 32 tournaments all over the world, but despite this experience the newly-appointed assistant-coach is still feeling some nerves in the build-up to this weekend’s tournament in Sydney.
The Blitzboks will be defending their crown at the Allianz Stadium when the third tournament on the Sevens Series kicks off on Friday, 26 January. It will also be the first time for Dazel in his new role.
“I have played and worked with Neil Powell before, so this is not completely new to me,” explained Dazel, who was Springbok Women’s Sevens Head Coach until the end of last year.
“I assisted him at the Olympic Games in 2016 (where South Africa won bronze) and during the Cape Town Sevens last December, and we were team-mates for a couple of years. The women’s team also shared the same base in Stellenbosch, so I really slotted in with ease.
“There is less pressure for the assistant coach, which allows me to focus on the task at hand – more personal and one-on-one coaching with the players. I am taking care of the attack and the one thing we picked up from our performance in Cape Town, was a need to improve with ball in hand. We have shifted some of the focus of our preparations towards that.
“I am excited and a bit nervous about the weekend, but that is a good sign,” Dazel added.
Another experienced, but excited Blitzbok in the squad is veteran Kyle Brown, who will be playing in his 61st tournament, but first in Sydney. He missed the previous two tournaments due to injury, but has played in the Adelaide and Gold Coast tournaments before.
“I had a quiet stroll around the city this morning to check out some of the coffee shops,” Brown said. He could be playing in his 300th match for South Africa this weekend, but Brown prefers not to focus on this achievement.
“Nothing was made of my 100th or 200th matches, so I don’t quite know what to make of it. I am just happy to be back with the squad,” he said.
Stedman Gans, another Sydney new boy, is also keen to get things underway. Gans made his Blitzboks debut in Las Vegas last year and played in Vancouver, Hong Kong and Singapore before he joined the Junior Springboks in Georgia for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
Earlier this month, Gans was part of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy side that won tournaments in Uruguay and Chile and now he finds himself with the Blitzboks in Australia.
“It is what the system is all about – the Academy is there to produce and deliver the next generation of Blitzboks and this is what is happening now,” said Gans.
“We gained some valuable game time in South America. Players learn and develop with time on the field. I am still learning and growing as a player and this tournament will be more about that. I recovered well after the trip from South America and thanks to the staff back home at our base in Stellenbosch, I am feeling fine and ready to play.”
The Blitzboks open the tournament with a Pool C clash against Papua New Guinea on Friday. They face Spain and England on Saturday.