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South Africa focused on Las Vegas

Sunday, January 26, 2014

SOUTH Africa head into this weekend's fourth round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas, USA, off the back of an emotional Cup win on home soil in December.

Just days after the sad passing of Nelson Mandela, the blitzbokke came from 14-0 behind to beat New Zealand 17-14 and lift their first Cup of the season at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, sparking unforgettable scenes.

Kyle Brown, who lifted the Cup as captain, now reflects fondly on that triumph and believes it has boosted his side's morale ahead of this weekend's tournament.

"It was an incredible weekend to be involved with," said Brown, who is set to play in his 37th World Series event in Las Vegas. "We woke up on Friday and heard the sad news of Tata Madiba's passing and it was moving to say the least.

"To be involved in a weekend like that, where everything fell into place and worked out as it did, it was really something incredible and one of those unforgettable weekends.

"It didn't really sink in for a couple of weeks when we met people who had seen it, watched it on TV, those who helped and enjoyed the weekend with us. That made me feel really special and realise it was something different and incredible for our team.

"I think getting a tournament win anywhere is great for morale and great for us in terms of what we're trying to do in the circuit."

That win means Brown and his teammates now sit just two points behind the reigning Series champions in the overall HSBC Sevens World Series standings and are the only side other than New Zealand to have finished in the top four at each of the first three rounds.

It is that consistency which South Africa are looking for this season and South Africa have a rich history at the Sam Boyd Stadium, having won two of the last three tournaments in Las Vegas.

The narrow pitch is often a talking point but Brown believes that plays into South Africa's hands, and has done for those two previous wins here.

"The narrow pitch doesn't change our tactics, we are already a defence-orientated team and that is something we thrive on, which gives us a little bit of benefit here.

"But because defence is so key for us, and with the pitch a bit narrower, it gives the opposition teams a little bit less space to work with and tightens the screws a bit."

Brown missed last year's tournament through injury but he is now fighting fit. Coach Neil Powell also welcomes back Seabelo Senatla into what looks to be his strongest side this season.

"We are nurturing a strong squad back in Stellenbosch, and I don't envy the coaches that have to make that team selection," explained Brown.

"To have guys like Jamba Ulengo at home, he has been showing some real class lately, but Rosco Specman gets his chance and we'll ease him into the game. To have Seabelo Senatla back with that kind of gas is another bonus, but he's been out for a while too so he's another one we want to ease in before we unleash him."

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