The Springbok Sevens squad assembled in Mossel Bay on Sunday for a final training camp before departure to San Francisco, where the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament will be played at AT&T Park from 20-22 July.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell will name his final 12-man squad on Wednesday and will use the next four days in the Southern Cape to fine-tune preparations for their final event of the 2017/18 season.
The Blitzboks last month won the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series crown for a second consecutive season and also placed fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, with the Melrose Cup – the only major silverware yet to be owned by South Africa – the final hurdle in a bumper season.
“We are now fully focussed on what we want to achieve in San Francisco and all our planning is geared towards being ready to that first match,” said Powell.
“The format of the Rugby World Cup Sevens is such that no team can afford even the slightest slip up, and we need to ensure our timing is right.”
South Africa will face the winner of Ireland and Chile in their first match of the event, on Saturday, 21 July (06h15 SA time).
“We will be fine-tuning all aspects of our play this week,” said Powell.
“The game plan is well drilled in as we have just played finished the World Series, but the application and commitment comes with every match we play. “
The Blitzboks played a warm-up match against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg last week and Powell was pleased with the outcome: “The first highlight was that all players came through that without any new injury concerns, while guys such as Rosko Specman and Selvyn Davids showed good progress in their return to play phase of recovery.”
Powell confirmed that Chris Dry and Stedman Gans will not form part of the final week as they will not be fit to play next weekend. The team will train at Van Riebeeck Sports Stadium in Mossel Bay on Monday and Tuesday.
The UAE will make their rugby sevens bow at the Asian Games later this year, taking place in Indonesia, where the official draw for the tournament took place on Thursday.
Eleven men’s and eight women’s sides will be involved at the 2018 Asian Games, taking place from August 18-September 2.
The sevens tournament will be held over three days from August 30-September 1 at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium, Bekasi.
The draw was conducted by Asia Rugby general manager for Ross Mitchell, in Jakarta.
The UAE will feature in a three-team Pool C alongside Sri Lanka and South Korea.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Hong Kong head Pool A alongside China, Thailand and Pakistan. Following their recent qualification to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Japan top Pool B and will face Chinese Taipei, Indonesia and Malaysia.
There are just two pools in the women’s competition, and China, also recent qualifiers for the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, top Pool A. They are joined by Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea.
Japan, who were relegated from the women’s series, are set to play Kazakhstan, Thailand and Indonesia.
Mitchell said: “We are all excited about the upcoming competition in Indonesia.
“It was a very well run draw and the host nation took a collective gasp when both the men and women’s teams were drawn.
“It is all shaping up to be a great tournament, and a competitive one that will further enhance the growth of rugby in Asia.”
The 2018 Asian Games will be held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang, after Vietnam capital Hanoi, the original host, withdrew due to financial constraints.
It is the first time the Asian Games are being co-hosted in two cities, with Jakarta hosting for the first time since 1962.
Events will be held in and around the two cities, including venues in Bandung and the province of West Java.
Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Jakarta will host the opening and closing ceremonies.
Rugby union and sevens has featured at the Asian Games since 1998, with South Korea winning the first two tournaments in both disciplines. Sevens has been played exclusively since 2006, with Japan coming in as the three-time defending champions.
In Incheon four years ago they beat Hong Kong 24-12.
The Seawolves, beaten twice by the Raptors in the regular season, finally found a way past the Colorado club, who were the top seeds in the playoffs after losing just once in the regular season of the fledgling league, which kicked off in April with seven franchises.
The league is the latest attempt at launching a top-flight rugby union league in the United States.
Seattle flyhalf Peter Smith opened the scoring with a penalty goal for a 3-0 lead, but Glendale replied with a maul that put hooker Zach Fenoglio over. Flyhalf Will Magie converted for a 7-3 lead for the Raptors.
A try from hooker Ray Barkwill gave the Seawolves a narrow 8-7 lead at the half.
Congratulations to OD Mat Turner and the Seattle Seawolves for winning the inaugural season of Professional Major League Rugby (MLR) Championship in the USA.— Bishops Rugby (@Bishops_Rugby) July 8, 2018
They won the final 23-19 against the table-topping Glendale Raptors 🇺🇸🏉 pic.twitter.com/o11JnKjVuH
But Glendale regained the initiative with two quick tries early in the second half, Magie’s conversion of Bryce Campbell’s try putting the Raptors up 19-8.
The Seawolves, bolstered in the playoffs by the return of USA and Canadian internationals including Olive Kilifi, Barkwill and Vili Toluta’u, responded minutes later as William Rasileka crashed over in the corner.
Two minutes later Seattle’s Riekert Hattingh powered over and Smith’s conversion made it 20-19 for the Seawolves.
A Smith penalty completed the scoring at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego, where MLR’s San Diego Legion play their home games.
MLR, which could expand to as many as 10 teams next year, follows a failed 2016 attempt to establish a US league, with PRO rugby lasting only one season with five clubs.