Only a World Series spot will do for a German side that has ‘really kicked on’ since shock Hong Kong showing
After surprising with a run to the semi-finals in last year’s qualifying tournament, Chad Shepherd’s side mean business in 2017
In the build-up to last year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifier, you could have been forgiven for thinking Germany were just happy to be in Hong Kong.
It was the first time they had reached the qualifying tournament, however it soon became clear the virtually unknown Germans were not here for a holiday.
A slick run to the semi-finals that included a win over Hong Kong turned heads and a strong performance in the Olympic repêchage, where they also reached the semi-finals, ensured Germany would be going under the radar no longer.
Fast forward to the now and captain Pierre Mathurin says his team – now equipped with some serious sevens experience – are ready to take their spot on the World Series.
“We are here with intentions to win the tournament and we will be disappointed if we don’t,” Mathurin said.
“We were also focused on winning last year but obviously it was a huge achievement in getting there, but in saying that we were confident in our own ability and we expected to do well.
“I think we shocked a couple of people and this year people probably know a bit more about us.”
There was a buzz around the camp at Monday’s training session at King George V School that suggests Germany are a team that knows they are ready to get the job done.
Post-training music and banter went hand in hand with an air of confidence on the pitch and coach Chad Shepherd hailed the maturity of his squad.
“We have really kicked on since last year,” Shepherd said. “I think we have got a little bit more size and experience this year and we have evolved, we are a little bit more adaptable to the conditions.
“I think the team has matured and we have got a few new guys on board so it is exciting to see how they go.”
Shepherd cited Olympic funding and new-found sponsorship on the back of the team’s performances in 2016 as key to the continued growth of the side.
“I think Hong Kong, first and foremost, and then Monaco helped us, we got a bit of exposure,” he said.
“We flew under the radar a little bit before then but no longer now. We are very lucky to have a good sponsor on board and results sell, so if we can get the result we want this weekend hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”
Germany’s preparation for this weekend has included playing in the invitational tournament at the Dubai Sevens as well as a run in the Coral Coast Sevens, where Hong Kong also competed.
The side is a mix of players that stepped out in Hong Kong last year and those brought into the main team from the wider training squad.
They tackle Tonga, Uganda and Jamaica in pool E and Mathurin is looking forward to what he expects will be a physical road to the finals.
“Last year was one of the best experiences in my career and the energy when you get out on the pitch is like no other tournament that we have ever played in,” he said.