South Africa’s Werner Kok tells RW’s Alan Dymock why he’s excited about the start of the new HSBC World Series
RETURNING TO Dubai means South Africa’s Werner Kok starts this new HSBC Sevens World Series in the happiest possible way. Last year the Blitzbokke triumphed there and Kok was named in the Dream Team from that famous Emirates event.
“Each and every tournament is unique,” Kok tells Rugby World, “but Dubai is special. I think it’s because it’s a neutral pitch. The fans there don’t shout for a specific team – they cheer for big tackles, great passes and good runs regardless of which team is making them. It’s just great to see that neutrality from them.”
So it’s a top place to kick off the first of ten legs, with Dubai opening things up on 5 December and London closing the series on 22 May.
South Africa finished second in the series last season, having been in the driving seat for large parts of the campaign. They qualified for next summer’s Olympics and Kok stood out as a star player. He was named in the HSBC Dream Team for the whole season, was the second-highest ball-carrier, with 130 carries, and the top tackler with 116 hits. Chuffed?
“I’m happy with my performances,” Kok says. “But I don’t go very deep into those stats. I’m very positive about the value of being named in a Dream Team, but it puts pressure on you to be as good, if not going further, this season.
“I just want to be as good as Cecil Afrika! With his decision-making, he’s always spot on and he is someone I have looked up to and respected for a very long time.”
Kok doesn’t believe that winning last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow gives South Africa any edge in the upcoming Olympics and he’s disappointed they didn’t win the series last time out, losing out to Fiji. The Blitzbokke weren’t clinical enough, he feels; they played some good rugby but they need to do more.
However, with such a challenge on the horizon, and baubles being awarded to the blond bombshell almost monthly, he must be raring to throw himself into a run of sevens and global events of huge magnitude.
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“Winning the Commonwealth Games helps with our confidence, but does it put us in the driving seat for the Olympics? I don’t think so.
“It’s another awesome platform – it’s the world’s biggest sporting event! We must play with confidence and take every tournament by force. And not forget about the team; it’s better to be part of a system. That’s not a burden, putting an arm around team-mates. We’re a small team so it makes my job easier.”