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England, South Africa under Sevens pressure

IRB

Sportal.co.nz     31 Jan 2013     IRB

In the three rounds played, England have failed to make the quarter-finals in any and with a promotion-relegation tournament between the bottom three ranked sides after round eight in Glasgow, at the ninth round in London, England are in danger of having to reconfirm their status.

However, England coach Ben Ryan is confident his charges can avoid that prospect.

"I am smiling nervously," he said, "but we are not thinking of that.

"It is not where we will be come the end of the season. We will push ourselves up the table during the remainder of the season."

The promotion-relegation was recognition of the changes that have occurred as newer teams have made an impact and with the Olympic Games on the horizon. That had to be good for the game, Ryan said.

It won't be any easier in Wellington as England are pitted against New Zealand, Spain and the United States in pool play.

England will be looking for inspiration from their 2009 success in Wellington.

"We thoroughly enjoy the New Zealand Sevens. I have some fond memories here but our goal is very simple for this weekend and that is to improve on where we are," he said.

Fourth-placed South Africa will be without several of their top-flight players as they meet Samoa, Canada and Wales in their pool games.

Captain Kyle Brown has a broken ankle and will miss the rest of the season while also missing from the line-up due to injuries are key playmakers Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez and Stephen Hunt.

Captaincy will rest with veteran Frankie Horne who will be competing in his 45th world series event, a record for a South African player.

Heavy responsibility will be laid on Horne, Chris Dry and Paul Delport to set the example for the younger members of the squad.

Making their debuts will be two 19-year-olds Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla.

Coach Paul Treu told Sport24.co.za that the side had prepared well in Wellington's heat.

"The youngsters offer us a lot of options and they bring a different kind of energy, so from that aspect I am very pleased," he said.

While down on experience, Treu said he would be sticking with the traditional attacking style the side employs.

"We have worked hard on creating opportunities and our tries tally so far this season is proof of that.

"We have scored more tries and conceded less than the teams that are above us, but the difference between us and the front runners at the moment is that they have managed to win those crucial matches on day two when it mattered.

"Our team has spoken a lot about those small margins for error and if we can manage to keep our focus throughout and keep on creating opportunities, then we will be a threat here [in Wellington] and Las Vegas," Treu said.