Hong Kong Sevens

Brown cleared to lead Springboks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am

South Africa captain Kyle Brown has been passed fit and will lead the Springboks to what coach Paul Treu described as 'the toughest and most competitive' Hong Kong Sevens in history.

Treu said the changes implemented by the International Rugby Board, which will see the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens split into two separate tournaments, would mean cutthroat competition at all levels.

Twelve core teams will play for the Cup next weekend, while the 12 other teams will play in a qualifying tournament, with the top three promoted to the elite group for next year's world series.

'It was inevitable and bound to happen,' Treu said. 'You can't continue along the same process where you keep inviting teams to be part of the series. It is going to increase the level of competition and it's going to be a lot more competitive.

'It gives teams an opportunity to be part of the world series and play in all tournaments. It's also a chance for the IRB to set up a process where teams can qualify for the [2016] Olympics. It would have been tough if this process had only included the core teams.Now everyone has an opportunity,' Treu said.

The competition at both ends of the spectrum will be intense. South Africa, who are still chasing their first Cup title in Hong Kong, are in pool B alongside defending champions New Zealand, Wales and the US.

'Everyone has something to play for and the stakes are high. For a few of these players it's a career pathway, they can make it their livelihood and be part of something bigger which is the 2016 Olympics,' Treu said.

'We will see tough games, especially for those teams that are really going out there to be part of the series next year.'

The recovery of inspirational captain Brown from a shoulder injury will give South Africa a boost. Two other key players, Chris Dry (knee) and Boom Prinsloo (neck), have also been passed fit.

'We have played well this season but for some reason have not been able to really produce the goods in the key matches,' Treu said. 'It is something we have spoken a lot about and our goal will be to be consistent on all three days.

'The guys are committed and have worked extremely hard since our return from the US [last leg in Las Vegas]. Our medical team did very well to get the injured players ready in time, which enabled us to choose a good, competitive squad.'

South Africa are third in the world series standings with 76 points behind New Zealand (92) and Fiji (87). A 14-man squad, from which Treu will name his final 12, will arrive in Hong Kong tomorrow.