Paul Treu has deservedly built a reputation as a true legend of the 7-a-side game. From great player to inspirational coach, and a worthy bastion for the sport he loves so much. His determination to succeed eventually paid dividends when the Boks made history in taking the 08/09 IRB World Sevens Series crown for the first time. With South Africa strong favourites for the Gold Medal at this weekend’s World Games, Robin Heymann sat down with the man himself to discuss the Boks unique culture, why Fiji are so tough, and the British Lions.
Paul Treu has deservedly built a reputation as a true legend of the 7-a-side game. From great player to inspirational coach, and a worthy bastion for the sport he loves so much.
His determination to succeed eventually paid dividends when the Boks made history in taking the 08/09 IRB World Sevens Series crown for the first time.
With South Africa strong favourites for the Gold Medal at this weekend’s World Games, Robin Heymann sat down with the man himself to discuss the Boks unique culture, why Fiji are so tough, and the British Lions.
Paul, welcome to UR7s! Hi Guys
Firstly has it been nice to get back with the team after your triumph back in June? It has been an awesome ride this season and we have decided to give the guys a deserved break after Edinburgh. The players have become quite close and it is always nice to be back and have some fun. I suppose life without Sevens is just not the same and this has become our second family.
How has training gone thus far for the upcoming World Games? I won’t say our preparations have been excellent, but we are happy with the way we gradually phased them in after the break. The lack of match practice is always a concern in South Africa, but at least we played some practice games in Taiwan.
You are pooled with the hosts Chinese Taipei, but have also done some training matches with them? How have they gone? We will normally never practice against a team in our pool, but we were the only teams that came in early and it is always better than practicing alone. They are ok I suppose, but I am not sure what to expect on game day. They run good support lines and will probably try to play around us.
You also have the USA in your pool. What are your thoughts on their coach Al Caravelli? Al is one of the most hardworking coaches on the Circuit and he reminds me a lot of myself. He puts in endless hours analysing opposition teams and has moulded his team into such a competitive unit. I respect him a lot as a coach and soon they will start to breakthrough to semi-finals.
Fiji have had the better of you in some big games last season, what makes them such difficult opponents? I agree. In fact, we have played them in four finals, lost every time and played 7 semi-finals, won 3 and lost 4. So the trend is obviously there and we will have to do a few things differently should we get them in the final on Saturday. Last year in Wellington, it was the first time we have beaten them in four years.
Besides their athleticism and phenomenal skills, it’s their height that kills teams because you can’t get to the ball which makes offloading in contact a nightmare in defence. They are masters in attacking and creating space and very difficult to read when defending.
Their current strength is that they put teams away in the first half which makes it very difficult to fight back in the second half. In the past under Serevi and with William Ryder in the mix, they were clinching games in the dying seconds or extra time, but I think the current squad are better starters than finishers.
This is your third World Games you have participated in? Yes that’s right, first as a player and now my second one as a coach. It is always interesting to see and experience because you don’t get the special treatment associated with the IRB Series. It is without doubt the biggest event here and we should get the biggest crowd as well.
Have you got to support South Africa in many of the other sports in Kaohsiung yet? I have only seen some of the events on TV because our management only received our accreditation this week. The rest of the squad have been quite supportive and have interacted rather well with Team South Africa.
You seem to have built a unique culture and bond with your team - how important is that to your success? It is crucial to be honest. You can only become a real team if there is complete trust, honesty and unity and I think this is why a lot of players never make it in Sevens. Everyone is buying into our culture and what we would like to achieve as a team which of course makes my job a lot easier. This, however, doesn’t happen overnight and is something we have nurtured over the past few years.
How nice was it to see some of your regulars such as Gio Aplon, Mpho Mbiyozo, and Mzwandile Stick getting a chance to play against British Lions? When I received a call requesting our players to play against the Lions I didn’t hesitate for a second. I played against them as well way back in 1997 and because I know how much it meant to me, I just had to make them part of this special occasion because it is such an unbelievable experience. Watching Mpho receiving the man of the match award in Port Elizabeth? Priceless!
Can you tell us what the reaction back home has been like after victory in the World Series? Is 7s getting the kudos and exposure you wished? It has been phenomenal and we couldn’t have asked for a better platform to raise the profile of Sevens in South Africa. Kids are now starting to show interest and 15’s supporters are starting to follow the team’s progress. Even so that more people watched the George final than the Super 14 final between the Bulls and the Chiefs. Now who in his right mind would have ever thought this would happen in a 15’s-dominated country like South Africa. Let me just say, I am smiling right now.
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