Nicknamed the Blitzbokke, South Africa’s rugby sevens team is one of the finest in the world. Currently ranked second behind Fiji, they will be eyeing a place on the podium at
is a lot quicker and a lot more intense [than the 15-a-side version of rugby],” says Neil Powell, the head coach of the South Africa team that will be going for gold in . “Someone summed up sevens perfectly by saying it’s human chess, where you have to figure out their strategies and you have obviously a strategy to try and beat them
The Blitzbokke were one of the outstanding teams of the 2015/16 World Rugby Sevens Series season, finishing second behind Fiji in the 10-event competition. Victorious in the Dubai event, the South Africans took second place in Wellington, Vancouver and London, and third in Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Singapore.
One of the team’s stand-out players is Seabelo Senatla, last season’s top Sevens Series try scorer with 66 in total. The spearhead of the Blitzbokke back line, Senatla also made 72 clean breaks during the campaign, more than any other player.
Explaining the physical demands of the game, he said: “We all know that sevens is a pretty high-paced game, so you need a whole lot of strength, a whole lot of looseness, a whole lot of speed, agility.”
South Africa skipper Kyle Brown can also lay claim to an impressive stat, having made 279 World Rugby Sevens Series appearances in all, a competition record.
In selecting his 12-man squad for Rio, Powell left out 15-a-side star and 2007 Rugby World Cup winner Bryan Habana, who played at two Sevens Series events this season with the aim of making the Olympics.
“I can tell you it wasn’t easy,” said Powell. “I could have picked three different teams and all would have been very competitive, but unfortunately‚ only 12 can go.”
The Blitzbokke have picked up the pace of their Olympic preparations in the last few weeks, organising invitational tournaments on home soil to ensure the players hit peak form in time for the pool phase at Rio 2016, where they will face a tough test against France, Australia and Spain.