The tropical beauty of the Caribbean Island of Tobago is worth a second look, but the South African Under-18 Sevens team will rather focus on the main reason for their presence at the Commonwealth Youth Games, which is the defence of their gold medal.
That is the view of coach Marius Schoeman as the team prepare for this unique opportunity to claim a gold medal for their country.
“The team recovered well on what was easily the longest trip that I have travelled on,” said Schoeman.
“We had a couple of flights to get here, but that is all part of the journey for these players, who are all super excited to represent their country. The recovery went well, thanks to the Blitzboks’ Strength and Conditioning coach, Ghafoer Luckan, who travelled with us, and we are ready to play.”
South Africa will face Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday, Canada and Scotland on Monday and Fiji on Tuesday, with the medal play-offs later on Tuesday at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex in Scarborough, Tobago.
Schoeman said they have very little information on their opponents, but that the focus will be on themselves anyway.
“One can expect that Scotland and Canada will have some structure due to their senior programmes, while the two local sides will have good athletes and will test us on day one,” said Schoeman.
“Fiji will always be Fiji, but at least we would have seen them play before we face them. We have a good squad here and the players are determined to deliver a good performance.”
Schoeman also reminded his players of the last time South Africa competed at the Youth Games, in 2016 in Samoa, where they won gold medal.
“That team consisted of the likes of Curwin Bosch, Damian Willemse, Stedman Gans and JC Pretorius – to name a few – and we know how their careers developed after that. So, there is a clear pathway for these players and their ambitions to play sevens at a higher level,” added Schoeman.
Furthermore, two South African women’s referees – Giana Viljoen and Zoe Naude – will also be in action at the event in the Caribbean.
SA U18 Sevens fixtures (SA times):
20h28: Trinidad & Tobago
From 20h00: Play-offs
The SA U18 Sevens squad: Siyanda Nkosi (Northwood HS, Sharks), Fano Linde (Voortrekker HS, Griffons), Jeffwin Wesso (Outeniqua HS, SWD), Luann Olivier (Garsfontein HS, Blue Bulls), James Nero (Durbanville HS, Western Province), Thandolwami Ntshangase (Durban HS, Sharks), Gino Cupido (Strand HS, Western Province), Siyabonga Ndlozi (Westville BHS, Sharks), Lavela Pongolo (Grey HS, Eastern Province), Bernardo Diedericks (Robertson HS, Boland), Samuel Badenhorst (Paul Roos Gymnasium, Western Province), Luan Giliomee (Charlie Hofmeyr HS, Boland), Marno Stopforth (Grey College, Free State).