Weight of a country's hopes rests on the shoulders of a modern-day Atlas - Cecil Afrika

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2011, 12:00am

He is aptly named after a continent. And like a modern-day Atlas, Cecil Afrika is carrying the hopes of his country on his shoulders. But South Africa coach Paul Treu says the IRB Sevens World Series top try-scorer is only as good as the rest of the players around him.

'With Cecil, it is all about athletic ability. The guys around him have to do the hard work if Cecil is to dance,' says Treu. 'He is a constant threat to the defence line, but everyone has to commit to their jobs out on the field so he can play to his potential.'

Afrika arrived with the moniker 'lethal weapon' on his jersey, having collected 22 tries from the four previous tournaments. He has now added five more from the pool competition and is in front of the chasing pack, which includes Fijian Seremaia Burotu and New Zealand's Declan O'Donnell.

The soft-spoken Afrika shies away from the limelight, preferring to do the job on the field. Asked how he feels to carry the burden of a country - literally - on his shoulders, he smiles. 'I just try to finish off the hard work done by the other guys. I'm enjoying my season, and I hope South Africa will be able to taste Cup victory in Hong Kong,' Afrika said.

That is the aim of skipper Kyle Brown and the rest of the squad, too. South Africa have been in three finals - once at the 1997 World Cup Sevens - but have never gone that extra yard and lifted the silverware.

After a few initial stutters in their opening game against Spain on Friday night, winning 33-5, they stepped up a gear with wins over Hong Kong (45-0) and Wales (42-12) to top the pool.

Having won the last leg in Las Vegas, South Africa are the form team but the biggest worry facing Treu is he might be down to 10 men as the tournament enters crunch time.

A hip injury has ruled out Bernado Botha, while there is doubt over the fitness of Paul Jordaan, who hurt his back on the opening night.

'We are basically down to 10 players now but there is nothing we can do that is new. We have to go back to what we are doing at practice and play as a team,' Treu said.

'But all the teams are faced with injuries and niggles. We have 10 players left and even if there were five players left we would go out there to win - to play our hearts out.'