Following an epic victory in the Cape Town Sevens in December, the Blitzbokke will continue their World Rugby Sevens Series campaign in Wellington, New Zealand on January 30-31.
Coach Neil Powell’s team drew New Zealand in Pool A, along with Scotland and Russia. But they weren’t sure if Williams, who was included in the Kiwi squad for the Sevens season, would make his debut in the shorter format at the Westpac Stadium.
But New Zealand rugby website stuff.co.nz reports that Williams has successfully completed a three-day training camp with the All Black Sevens squad, and is set to feature in the Wellington Sevens. It is hoped that Williams will be conditioned well enough in time for the tournament, as New Zealand strive to have their best possible team at the Rio Olympic Games in August.
Williams said that the fitness regime required for the seven-man game was a “bit of a wake-up call”, and that he had great admiration for the regular Sevens players. “The first day we got in, we did a beep test. Usually, in our (Super Rugby) franchises, we do a beep test, but there’s not too much after that. But then we came out here for what I think was about an hour of fitness games, and after 20 minutes I couldn’t get out of a jogging pace.
“It was a bit of a wake-up call but in saying that, I know where I’m at and I know where I want to go. I know that comes from a lot of hard work, and I’m just lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be around these guys 24/7.”
Long-serving New Zealand Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens was cautious when asked about Williams’s readiness for the Wellington tournament. “I’m not too sure whether he’ll play Wellington. We’ll find the right time to put him out there,” Tietjens said.
“He’s really nervous, he wants to grasp the information and when it’s time to put him out, I certainly will do that. He certainly could be in Wellington, and more than likely will be in Wellington, but we want to be confident that he’s going out... right and ready to go.
“He’s so professional and he’s very infectious. I mean, the players just follow him and learn from him. There’s so much you can learn from Sonny Bill Williams and the professional footballer he is.
“He works very, very hard and having that work ethic, as a real example at the gym yesterday, it wasn’t a core gym session but seven or eight of the guys went with Sonny Bill Williams, and that’s the type of infectious effect he has on the players. He is a superstar, but he knows he’s got to work as hard as anyone to make this side.”
The Blitzbokke will look to continue where they left off in Cape Town in December, when they beat Argentina in the Cup final at the Cape Town Stadium.
Coach Powell is likely to have star playmaker Cecil Afrika back from a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the Cape Town Sevens, and they could be further strengthened by 15-man Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks.
The Stormers announced on Tuesday that Hendricks, Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe were not attending the franchise’s training camp in Wilderness this week due to their Blitzbokke commitments, which indicates that the trio are set to play in Wellington.
Blitzbok Fixtures in Wellington:
Saturday, January 30 (all SA times)
2.42am: South Africa v Scotland
5.44am: South Africa v Russia
9.30am: South Africa v New Zealand
Original source: Can Blitzbokke stop Sonny Bill?