South African rugby star looking forward to Vancouver sevens series

England's Phil Burgess, back, tackles South Africa's Philip Snyman during World Rugby Sevens Series action, in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 11, 2017. South African rugby captain Philip Snyman is looking forward to more than just playing time while he's in Vancouver this weekend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - South African rugby captain Philip Snyman is looking forward to more than just playing time while he's in Vancouver this weekend.

"I really enjoy the coffee in Vancouver. I think it's some of the best in the world," said Snyman, who's in B.C. for the latest stop on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit.

"They have a good coffee culture here."

Snyman was part of the South African team that won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games, where rugby sevens made its Olympic debut.

Harry Jones, captain of Canada's sevens team, isn't surprised by Snyman's love of the bean.

"You think they are going to be having a few beers?" the West Vancouver, B.C., native said with a grin. "Maybe the stereotypes are changing a little bit.

"The South Africans love their coffee. They bring coffee beans all over the world."

What ever is fuelling the Blitzboks, they come into this weekend's tournament at BC Place Stadium leading the World Rugby Sevens Series with 92 points, 10 more than second place New Zealand.

South Africa won the opening tournament in Dubai and were runners-up in two others. They stumbled last weekend in Las Vegas, losing to Argentina in the semifinals.

"We have a good team," said Snyman. "We lost a couple of experienced players along the season. There are some youngsters coming in though. They showed last week they can do the job.

"It's going to take a massive team effort this week."

The Canada Sevens is the sixth stop on the 10-country series. Beginning Saturday, 16 of the world's best teams will start playing a total of 45 games. The final is scheduled for Sunday.

The Canadians open the tournament against Australia, currently ranked fourth in the standings with 72 points, then the U.S., who won last week's tournament on home soil. Canada finishes Day 1 against Uruguay.

"They are all really tough teams," said Jones. "We have to have our heads up for all three teams."

Canada is ranked 11th in the standings with 35 points. Its best result of the season was fourth in Cape Town.

Head coach Damain McGrath said his team is paying the price for a successful campaign last year which saw Canada finish eighth overall, including a win in Singapore and a third place in London.

"We're probably playing better rugby this year than last year when the results were going well for us," said McGrath. "What we lack is a little bit of consistency.

"Last year we were under the radar a little bit. We were a team that weren't fancied, and we snuck up and got some great results. We put ourselves front and centre and teams are preparing for us, so we have to work that little bit harder."

Some teams like the U.S. use speed as their major weapon of attack. Canada's arsenal is built around strength and toughness.

"Canadian grit," said McGrath. "We don't have much speed on our team. So, we are a big, powerful side.

"We play confrontational sevens. We rely on our bulk and agility."

Jones said a positive result against Australia would set the tone for the weekend.

"Just stick to our game plan," he said. "It's not really about them, it's about us.

"We didn't play as well as we normally do in Vegas. We have to get back to the basics. The boys are going to be excited to play in front of a hometown crowd as well."

The Canadian were 3-3 last weekend in Las Vegas, losing the challenge final 26-19 to France.

In Rugby Sevens, teams of seven players play two, seven-minute halves. Traditional rugby has 15 players playing 40-minute halves.

This will be the third year Vancouver has hosted the World Ruby Seven Series. Last years event attracted 76,000 fans over two days and organizers are predicting Sunday's final will be a sellout.

Rugby Canada announced earlier this year they will bid for the rights to host the tournament from 2020 through 2023.


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