Springbok Women's Sevens coach Renfred Dazel says the intensity of their training sessions will increase significantly in the next two weeks as they finalise their preparations for the women's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leg in Dubai from 30 November to 1 December.
Dazel's charges will compete against New Zealand, USA and France in Pool A. And while the coach admitted that it would be a challenging tournament, he was excited to kick off what will be a demanding 2017/18 season against some of the top sides in the world.
The team have three vital tournaments lined up next year, the first of which are the 2018/19 Women's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong in April, which will be followed by the Commonwealth Games on Australia's Gold Coast a week later, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July.
They will also participate in an invitational tournament in Brisbane, Australia, in February to sharpen up on their game time and to get a taste of the weather conditions expected at the Commonwealth Games.
'Our focus in the last few weeks has been on analysing the opposition and working on our conditioning, but we plan to increase the intensity of our training sessions from next week so that we hit the ground running going into the Dubai Sevens,' said Dazel on Wednesday.
'New Zealand are the top side on the rankings, so we have a good idea of what to expect from them. France play quite similarly to Russia who we faced last year, and we met the USA in the 2016 tournament, so we know what we are in for.'
Fortunately for Dazel, the players who were nursing niggling injuries are back at training, and so is veteran Marithy Pienaar who has fully recovered from surgery to her hip and is currently being phased back into training twice a day.
Dazel also invited four players who were members of the SA Select Women's team which participated in the 15-a-side tour to England last month - Unathi Mali and Nosiphiwo Goda (who are capped Springbok Women's Sevens players), Aseza Hele and Bianca Meyer - to train with the team. They'll also be considered for selection.
'We're training with a bigger squad, while a few players who are still studying will return after their exams, so we are in a good position at the moment,' said Dazel.
'The fact that most of the players in the group have been exposed to international competition of some kind also means that we will enter the Dubai Sevens in a better position than last season.
'Hopefully this will set us in good stead as we look to build on last year's performance in which we advanced to the Cup semi-final for the first time in my four-year coaching tenure with the team, and a solid season in which they qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens by winning the Rugby Africa Sevens in our last tournament.'
Dazel will finalise his team to travel to Dubai in the next two weeks, and they'll depart for Dubai on 25 November.
In the picture Mathrin Simmers hits the tackle shield with Megan Comle defending. In the background is Christelene Steinhobel.