SA keep quiet on chances of victory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 1997, 12:00am

It is the oldest trick in the book. Play down your chances to stave off the pressure brewed up by lofty expectation.

South Africa appear to have adopted this strategy for the World Cup Sevens, despite the fact that many neutral punters are having a shrewd flutter on them.

That is certainly the inference that can be drawn from the pre-tournament views of manager Wynand Claassen, Springbok captain on that politically-charged 1981 Test tour of New Zealand.

'I won't rate our chances - I'll leave others to do that,' he said guardedly, adding that the country were still sevens rookies.

Quietly, though, South Africa have been upping their emphasis on this brand of the game; on a recent visit to the territory, Morne du Plessis, World Cup-winning manager of the 15s Springboks in 1995, said attack-minded sevens techniques would help enhance the national team's prospects of regaining ground lost to the All Blacks in 1996.

To this end, an altogether more powerful combination than the one at last year's Hong Kong Sevens, has been sent to this event.

There are only three survivors from the 1996 side, who were ever so 'so-so' at So Kon Po - speedy Free State wing Stephen Brink, provincial teammate and flank Andre Venter (who has since earned several Springbok 15s caps), and Breyton Paulse, a carefree runner in the best traditions of rugby within the Cape coloured community.

And there are significantly more Springboks, too - Venter is joined by Northern Transvaal wing Jacques Olivier (likely to earn many more Test caps, with luckless Chester Williams crocked again) and other Loftus Versfeld-based 'Blue Bulls' in centre Andre Snyman and Joost van der Westhuizen, a big drawcard here and arguably the best scrum-half in the world.

It would have been more 'Boks, but for the withdrawal of strapping midfield man Japie Mulder, the only player to give Jonah Lomu a taste of his own medicine at the 1995 World Cup with a ribcage-rattling tackle in the final at Ellis Park. This is a blow; Mulder has a huge skip-pass that would have come in very handy.