The South Africa Women’s Sevens team face a dauting challenge at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, where they have been grouped with Australia, Fiji and Scotland in Pool B, and while they recognise they face a daunting task, head coach Paul Delport says they have a plan in place on how to deal with the pressure of playing such strong opposition.
Delport said they are fully aware of the enormity of the challenge that awaits them in Birmingham, but they will focus on achieving their own goals they have set for themselves.
The former Blitzbok star and Junior Springbok scrumhalf described the team’s qualification as a special achievement and a credit to their willingness to learn and improve as a team despite the obvious challenges the past few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe they did incredibly well to be here,” said Deport.
“We didn’t have a sevens programme from mid-2020, starting only again in January this year, and therefore winning the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens Cup and qualifying was very special.”
The chance to represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will give the players a unique opportunity to test their skills at the highest level.
“It’s a lovely opportunity for our ladies to be playing at the very top level. Going into the first day, we start against Australia, who are the best in the world, and they are going to pose certain challenges, but for us this is a level we want to play at,” explained Delport, adding the opening match will give him an indication of the players’ potential.
“For the coaching staff, we would be able to see which of the ladies are able to do the step up to the next level. Fiji, the bronze medallists at the Tokyo Olympic Games, are up next and they’re a team that always do well at these once-off events, and then we round off the pool fixtures against a very good Scottish team.”
For this crop of Springbok Women’s Sevens players it will be their first and unique experience of competing at the Commonwealth Games.
“There is excitement (amongst them) and for us as a team that is what we want and we are very aware of where we are at,” said Delport, who indicated they will make the most of the big occasion although they’ve been drawn into a very strong pool.
Rather than be overawed by the huge occasion, they will be dealing differently with the pressure that comes with playing against far stronger opposition: “The focus will be very much on us this week. We know the challenges that will be posed by Australia, Fiji and Scotland, and we know what we want to achieve,” he added
After opening their campaign against the Aussies on Friday morning, the SA women will then have another massive match against the formidable Fijians later on the same day. They finish their group commitment on Saturday morning against Scotland.
All group matches are to be held on 29 and 30 July with the semi-finals also on Saturday, while more play-offs and the medal matches are to be played on Sunday 31 July. For more information on Rugby Sevens at the Commonwealth Games and the full match schedule, click here.