So good is the Blitzboks’ record in the Dubai Sevens they have been dubbed the “Desert Kings”.
The Blitzboks have won five of the last six Dubai Sevens tournaments, which is part of the World Sevens Series.
That includes the back-to-back tournament weekends held after the life-altering Covid-19 pandemic, which took them to a record 10th Dubai gold. Only New Zealand come close with six cup wins in the Gulf, and they have to navigate through them (6.44am), Samoa (8.50am) and Canada (12.58pm) in Pool A on Saturday.
In comes 20-year-old Junior Springbok Masande Mtshali, with the required keenness to make the Dubai outing the Olympic qualification springboard for the Blitzboks.
“Dubai is a good place to start with that,” said Mtshali.
“I have been here before and we feel comfortable with the surroundings and tournament set-up, so there will be no excuses. We really trained hard to prepare ourselves the best possible way for the tournament.
“I feel ready to contribute in a positive and constructive way and to go and make the country proud alongside the rest of the Blitzboks.”
Philip Snyman will hold the coaching reins in Dubai in the absence of Sandile Ngcobo, who recently had an operation, while Selvyn Davids will skipper the side due to Siviwe Soyizwaphi’s injury.
Meanwhile, the Springbok Women’s Sevens are facing an uphill task in Pool C against New Zealand at 07.44am, Fiji at 10.43am and Great Britain at 3.13pm, also tomorrow.
They have played six times against both New Zealand and Fiji, while they face Great Britain for the first time.
In the women’s squad, only three players have played in more than five World Series tournaments and they will face vastly experienced teams in this pool, but forward
Bright Mkhari is adamant they will stay in the fight.
“The challenge is real, we are up against vastly experienced teams, but we did not work this hard and sacrifice that much to just give up when things are not going our way,” said the Limpopo-born Mkhari.
“There is a belief in the team, and we will fight for each other till the very last minute, that is a given.”
“We have a game plan, we have structure and we have belief. What we lacked was an opportunity and that is now presented to us. We cannot let it go to waste.
“We will be seen as underdogs as long as we allow ourselves to be. We need to earn the respect of our opponents as the new kids on the block.”
In the longer format of the game, Mkhari plays for the Bulls Daisies.
Mkhari was part of the squad that travelled to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup last year, but she was injured and not considered for the Rugby World Cup Sevens that followed, missing out on a rare double.
“I played here last year when we were part of the invitational event, but making my official Dubai debut in the series will be a highlight for sure,” said Mkhari.