This time around, at the National Stadium and the HSBC Singapore Sevens, Ngcobo's troops arrive on the back of an encouraging performance in Hong Kong last weekend, but still without a podium finish in their last three outings.

And with a mad scramble to gain automatic qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the coach is acutely aware of the significance of the weekend. He is adamant though, that with a slightly altered approach to their playing style and tactics and a huge chunk of South African pride, they do enter Pool A with a slight swagger.

“It is wonderful for the tournament and the sport to see as many competitive matches and close results as we have on the circuit this year – it tells you how much rugby sevens has grown over the years and how professional it has become,” said Ngcobo.

“There are upsets – if you can still call them that – every single weekend and no team is spared that, as we have seen ourselves. You cannot afford to be off your game for any match, or you will pay the price.”

They plan to counter that this weekend in their pool matches against Australia, Hong Kong China and New Zealand is with a more personal approach, but also a bit of variation on what brought them the title in Dubai and a silver in Sydney.

“We will make it personal, as it should be when playing Australia and New Zealand, while we do not want to slip up against Hong Kong China and suffer a first defeat against them,” he said.

“They are improving, they did so game by game last weekend in Hong Kong and you could see them growing as a team with every outing, coming close to a win by the end of the tournament.”

Captain's photo in Singapore this week.

Captain's photo in Singapore this week.

The big challenge to get into the Cup quarter-finals will be wins over the 2022 World Series champions, Australia, and New Zealand, who have struck a rich vein of form that has seen them win three of the last four tournaments.

Ngcobo said they have prepared for those matches in a particular way, with their options opened up thanks to the arrival of Jaiden Baron this week. Baron, a playmaker of note, replaced Zain Davids, a forward, and with that the SA side swopped some strength with speed.

“Zain is a three-time World Series winner and he will be missed, but with Jaiden’s arrival, it gives us some options with ball in hand,” said Ngcobo.

“He is really quick and does not go by the nickname of 'The Wind' for nothing. Also, we now have a left-footed and right-footed kicker in the squad and that gives us options. We are hoping to use that against Australia and New Zealand in particular, but I am not going to divulge too much, you will have to watch and see.”

He is expecting Australia first up to be a tough start to the day: “We respect their team as they have earned that. They have built a great squad over the years and developed a good culture that drives players to work hard, something we also try to install in our system.

“The first match always sets the tone for us, and we will be ready to take them on with a specific plan, but also with the badge on the jersey and knowing we have support back home.”

The match against New Zealand, who edged the Blitzboks in Hong Kong last weekend, will be one of mindset and a sleight of hand: “They are obviously doing something right at the moment, hence their comfortable lead in the series, and we respect that. But we believe we can beat them and have a plan to put them in trouble when we play them.”

Blitzbok pool fixtures on Saturday, 8 April (SA times):
04h14: Australia
07h40: Hong Kong China
11h28: New Zealand