Johannesburg - Having steered the Springbok Sevens to a creditable second place on the HSBC Sevens World Series, Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says he needs to improve the depth of his squad to make them more competitive next season.
Powell took over the reins as head coach of the Springbok Sevens when the 2013/14 season started in October last year. His immediate aim was to install a good level of consistency, and to reach the semi-final of each of the nine World Series tournaments.
The Blitzboks were on course to achieve their two main goals mid-way through the season, with the team playing in no fewer than five consecutive Cup Finals and winning the tournaments in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas.
Prior to the Tokyo Sevens, the Blitzboks pushed New Zealand all the way at the top of the leaderboard and at one point even overtook the eventual World Series winners at the top of the log.
However, the trip to the Far East eventually took a heavy toll on the team with several regulars such as Kyle Brown and Cecil Afrika ruled out of action because of injury.
Stephan Dippenaar also joined the casualty list in Glasgow, with the result that Powell had to call on rookie Shaun Adendorff and the relatively inexperienced WJ Strydom to plug the gaps. Mark Richards was also thrown into the fray, having last played for the Springbok Sevens at the Gold Coast tournament last October.
Losses in the quarter-finals of the last three tournaments allowed New Zealand to finally pull away from the South Africans to land a fourth consecutive World Series title.
Powell, reflecting on the past season and his first in charge, said the team especially missed the influential figures of regular captain Brown and experienced playmaker Afrika.
The Springbok Sevens coach said his next aim is to increase the depth of his squad: “The injuries to our regulars was unfortunate and part of the game. On the plus side, it did give us a chance to give players such as Shaun Adendorff, WJ Strydom and Mark Richards more playing time. I am sure they benefited a lot from playing in Glasgow and London.
He also praised the impact of speedster Seabelo Senatla after the dangerous wing was crowned top scorer in Las Vegas and London following his long injury lay-off. Senatla was close to his best at Twickenham and was the top points and try scorer after dotting 13 tries.
The Springbok Sevens return home on Tuesday. The squad’s next assignment is the Commonwealth Games on July 26 and 27 in Glasgow.