With Chris Dry around, it’s inevitable that there will be smiles on the faces of his fellow Blitzboks – whether it is his infectious attempts to rap, his no-nonsense approach at training or his proven ability between the four lines, you want to have the experienced traveller around come game day in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
This weekend, in Hamilton at the New Zealand Sevens at the FMG Stadium Waikato, it will be no different.
Not only will bring Dry the same effort that has made him the leading tackler for his side after two tournaments, but his strike rate to play in finals will be another factor the Springbok Sevens team will hope to stay true.
Dry has played in 32 finals in 70 tournaments and the 31-year-old is nearing the 100 try mark for his country, normally a feat deserved for the quicker backs.
His ninth visit to New Zealand has delivered the usual so far, with some new songs and dance moves developed on the team bus, but it will be when they face Japan and England on Saturday that the lineout expert, ruck destroyer and bruising tackler will show his real value to the Blitzboks.
Dry has been pretty relaxed thus far, but it will change as his 355th match for his country approaches.
“I enjoy New Zealand and coming here – it is a beautiful country and the people are very friendly and nice and relaxed,” the two-time World Series winner explained after the team’s final training session.
Come the Japan match on the opening day, and the relaxed demeanour will disappear.
“We prepared well for this tournament. The format has changed slightly, but we adapted the training sessions for that back in Stellenbosch already,” said Dry.
“Our coaching staff mirrored what we can expect here back home already, so we will be ready for what we will face. As a team, we do not look past the first match anyway, so our preparation will be Japan and what we need to do against them to be successful.
“The Japanese are a quality team, but we will focus on our own efforts and what we need to do to be successful. They are not affected that much by the time difference, but the experienced core of our squad makes things easier in order to adapt to the 11-hour time difference.
“A lot of the guys have been here many times, so we have learned over the years how important it is to adapt and not go to sleep during the day.”
“The guys showed great attitude,” said Powell.
“It is not easy to change your sleeping patterns and the 11-hour time difference has an impact, but our guys were great in how they handled that. There was good energy.”
The Blitzboks played Japan both in Dubai and Cape Town last month, scoring big wins in both, but Powell is adamant that those results are in the past.
“For a start, this is not the same squad that played in those two tournaments – in fact, it is probably the strongest Japan team we have seen in a while,” warned the Blitzbok coach.
“Several of their stars are back, guys that played in the World Cup and even the Olympics, so they will be a tough nut first up. They have some good balance in their team, with a few Fijian-born players with their offloading game complimenting the nippy and fast Japanese runners. So, we dare not underestimate them.”