In his playing days, Ngcobo made his Blitzbok debut in New Zealand in 2016, but back then the tournament was still held in Wellington. Seven years ago, South Africa came agonisingly close to winning the title in the Kiwi capital, only to be pipped at the post by a last-minute try in the final against the hosts.
“It’s my first time in Hamilton, but some of the guys have great memories from coming to New Zealand, although there are a few sour recollections too,” said Ngcobo.
“We all know New Zealand is a proper rugby nation, and it’s not easy coming here and getting a victory, but our slogan is ‘no excuses’ and we’re here to get the job done.”
Ngcobo, who took over as coach of the Blitzboks after last year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa, was satisfied with the work done during the week as the players shook off the cobwebs from their short break over the festive season.
Before that, they won the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Dubai before losing in extra time of their semi-final against eventual winners Samoa in Cape Town. And while he’s not saying it, Ngcobo would love nothing more than to see his team back on the podium this weekend, cementing their place at the top of the World Series standings.
As things stand, South Africa and Samoa are tied in first place on 47 points after three tournaments, followed by New Zealand and the USA on 44, while the Fijians round off the top-five on 40 points, making it one of the closest starts to a season in a long time.
Ngcobo knows that the margins at the top of the log are very small and that all teams are dangerous, but instead of focusing too much on their pool opponents on the opening day (Canada, Spain and Argentina), he explained that the Blitzboks have identified a few things they need to get right this weekend.
“We are looking at consistency in performance, finishing our opportunities and then for the guys who are coming in, to get in tune with our plan and execute with the rest of the team as quickly as possible,” said Ngcobo.
“It’s going to be very important to finish our opportunities this weekend. Looking back at Hong Kong and Cape Town, we saw that we start things, but then we don’t finish them and it’s important to get consistency in performance in that regard, which again will be crucial for the team’s long-term goal.
“I feel we did a lot of good work, with a lot of attention to detail, at training this week, the players have adapted to the new time zone and got back into the team environment after the Christmas break.”