“The Challenge Doesn’t Get Any Bigger Than In Hong Kong” – Sandile Ngcobo


Seven stops into the 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, and there has already been five different tournament winners, with only New Zealand and Argentina having won more than once, while Australia, South Africa and Samoa have also stood on the top step of the podium since the season kicked off in Hong Kong last November.

This weekend, all the top teams will return to Hong Kong to fight it out for the title at one of the most prestigious tournaments on the circuit.

It will be no different for the Springbok Sevens team, who won in Dubai last December after a slow start in Hong Kong, and this weekend, they will want nothing more than to rediscover the form they displayed in the UAE, as well as in Sydney when they lost in the final to New Zealand.

For Blitzbok coach Sandile Ngcobo, the challenge doesn't get any bigger than this weekend in Hong Kong, where his team have been grouped with Ireland, New Zealand and Kenya in a very tough Pool D.

The South Africans are in seventh position on the World Series standings on 89 points, and they have their sights set on making it back into the top four, with fourth place currently occupied by Fiji and Australia on 94 points. France are in third on 95 points, which means positions three to seven are separated by only six points.

“This is what the World Series is all about – you get to play the best of the best and nothing is guaranteed,” said Ngcobo on the eve of the tournament from Hong Kong.

“There is no such thing as small or big teams anymore and we will prepare for the weekend accordingly. This is a challenge we needed as a group, and the players know they have to step up and prepare for battle, and to ensure we play to the best of our ability in every single game.”

The first of these is against eighth-placed Ireland on Friday morning. The last time they met, in Los Angeles, the men in Emerald Green beat the Blitzboks by 14-5 in their pool match. Revenge won’t be on the cards for South Africa though, they simply want to start well in Hong Kong.

“The only thing on our minds right now is the first game on the first day of the tournament, and that is Ireland,” said Ngcobo.

“After that match, we’ll take it from there. Our goal is to improve our position on the World Series standings, so we can go into the last leg of the season, in Toulouse and London, in the top four.”

The top four teams at the end of the season will gain automatic qualification to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but for now, it’s all about the Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

Ngcobo said their preparations have gone well and they are looking forward to lacing up their boots again after a few weeks of introspection following the North American leg of the World Series.

“I think we’ve had a good week and the weather has played along, with no rain at our sessions, which allowed us to create some momentum on the training field and get everyone on the team on the same page,” he said.

“The new players have slotted in extremely well – they are fast learners and have brought some excitement to the squad. Yes, they will make some mistakes, but we will benefit from their energy.”

Blitzboks' pool fixtures (SA times):

Friday, 31 March
09:04: SA v Ireland

Saturday, 1 April:
05:04: SA v New Zealand
09:25: SA v Kenya

Springbok Sevens squad (with World Series stats):
Ryan Oosthuizen – 39 tournaments, 188 matches (185 points, 37 tries)
Impi Visser – 28 tournaments, 146 matches (135 points, 27 tries)
Zain Davids – 39 tournaments, 198 matches (180 points, 36 tries)
Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain) – 47 tournaments, 244 matches (735 points, 147 tries)
Mfundo Ndhlovu – 13 tournaments, 60 matches (65 points, 13 tries)
Christie Grobbelaar – 14 tournaments, 71 matches (110 points, 22 tries)
Shaun Williams – 9 tournaments, 46 matches (113 points, 17 tries, 14 conversions)
Travis Ismaiel – 1 tournament, 5 matches (5 points, 1 try)
Ricardo Duarttee – 6 tournaments, 34 matches (156 points, 13 tries, 44 conversions, 1 penalty goal)
Tiaan Pretorius – 3 tournaments, 10 matches (5 points, 1 try)
Ethan James – uncapped
Sebastiaan Jobb – uncapped
Donovan Don – uncapped