Despite a stirring weekend in Dubai last time out, Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens captain Ed Jenkins has spelled out the importance of the South Africa Sevens which kicks off on Saturday evening (AEDT).
Australia reached the Cup Final at the 7evens Stadium in the UAE last weekend in a campaign that included wins over England and series-leaders Fiji, and Jenkins is wary of the side getting ahead of themselves.
“It’s a tough competition and there are not many points splitting the top six or seven sides at the moment,” said the 28-year-old. “We’re up there at the moment, but it can change so quickly in Sevens so we have to put in another great performance this weekend so we can try and stay at the top there and those automatic qualification positions for the Olympics.
“You can’t take any of the sides easily. As soon as you start doing that then that’s when you start getting upsets. You can’t afford to take your foot off the pedal – our pool isn’t easy at all. Argentina has been good all year, making two Plate Finals so they’re a strong contender. They can’t be taken lightly, and neither can Portugal or Zimbabwe. We have to apply pressure to all of those teams and hopefully finish top of the pool.
“You look at Samoa, they did so well on the Gold Coast but slipped up last weekend. As I say, the points are so close that you have one slip up and you can really slide down that points table. So we need a good performance this weekend and hopefully accumulate some good points this weekend and hold our position.”
The 33-cap veteran is enjoying a purple-patch of form at the moment having been named in the Dubai Sevens Dream Team of the Tournament after some important carries, big defence while also crossing over for five tries. But Jenkins prefers to praise the team rather than take the credit for any individual recognition.
“My form is coming off the back of all of the hard work we have been putting in over at Narrabeen. They are making my job a lot easier. We have some great senior players within the group now so my job is a lot easier with them helping me out on the pitch and I really think it was just a solid team performance on the weekend.
“The team morale at the moment is great. Geraint has come in and filled the players with a lot of confidence and the players are going out and backing themselves. When you are enjoying it on the field, then you are more than likely to be enjoying it off the field too. The boys are liking where we are at at the moment but we have a job this weekend to do in Port Elizabeth.
Of Australia’s recent record in South Africa, Jenkins added: “We went into these tournaments knowing we hadn’t performed well in both Dubai and South Africa for a long time. We got the ball rolling in Dubai and I think we have drawn a good pool for South Africa so if we can get the job done on Day One then hopefully it can crossover to Day Two and we can continue the good form we have shown.
“Obviously as always our goal is to win so hopefully we can go one better in South Africa and send out our Strength and Conditioning Coach John Mitchell out a winner. We have the belief among the group, we definitely have the talent so we just have to put it all together this weekend.”
Fans in Dubai and those watching on television across Australia had a rare opportunity to hear AdvanceAustralia Fair twice last weekend after both the Men’s and Women’s teams reached the Cup Finals in their respective competitions.
“It just goes to show how much the Sevens program has improved over the last few years,” noted the Sydneysider. “It was a great effort by the Women to reach the Cup Final and a good effort from us to reach the final too. Unfortunately neither of us could come up with the wins but hopefully we can make up for that this weekend.”
Australia currently sit third on 29 points after two rounds of the 2014/15 series. Fiji are the ladder leaders (39 points), two points clear of South Africa.
Fans can watch all of the action live from Port Elizabeth on FOX SPORTS 2 from 7.20pm AEDT on Saturday.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens fixtures for Port Elizabeth, South Africa on 13-14 December:
Australia v Portugal, Pool B, 8.14pm (AEDT), 13 December
Australia v Zimbabwe, Pool B, 11.30pm (AEDT), 13 December
Australia v Argentina, Pool B, 3.10am (AEDT), 14 December