CAPE TOWN – Yes, Western Province flyer Werner Kok wants to call himself a fifteens “expert” one day, but that doesn’t mean he is ready to let go of reaching his Sevens dream of playing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Kok, who was part of the Blitzboks team that bagged a bronze medal at the Rio Games, is synonymous with energetic performances that consist of hard tackling, massive work at the breakdowns and pace perfectly combined with the power that he uses to get defenders out of his way as he dashes to the tryline.
Kok’s game time in the blue-and-white hoops might have been limited this season due to injury, but he has impressed in the Currie Cup appearances he has made since returning, and he again starred in Province’s 55-27 win over Griquas at Newlands at the weekend.
And although the 2015 World Sevens Player of the Year is enjoying his time with WP, he is committed to making the most of his opportunities in both sevens and fifteens.
“I’m really enjoying myself in the 15-man game and WP has an unbelievably nice system,” Kok said.
“I think the path is towards fifteens, but my heart is still with the sevens for another year. I think my goal is to play at the Olympics in 2020. I’ll see going forward, I have nothing to lose.
“I think the future is quite open, I’m still fully involved with sevens until the end of next year. I don’t think I’ll ever leave that, but I want to try my hand at fifteens.
“I would like to learn more about the 15-man game, and I would like to become an expert in this game as well.”
WP coach John Dobson has spoken a lot about the valuable contribution the sevens players make to the 15-man set-up in terms of their work ethic.
And anyone who has seen Kok play would know all too well that he is as physical as they come – a trait the 24-year-old explained as kind of being a requirement, seeing that the Blitzboks are the “smallest” players on the World Series circuit.
“We work very hard on contact because our players are quite small, I think our team has the smallest players on the circuit. So we put a lot of work into that. It’s something that I enjoy a lot – I like the contact work and being physical,” Kok said.
“I take it personally when someone decides to tackle me or to run on to me, so then I want to assert myself.”
But Kok didn’t only shed a bit of light as to just why he enjoys the contact part of the game so much, he also tried to put into words just what it is that makes the current World Sevens Series champions so successful.
“I think it comes down to 10, 12 years’ of experience and the guys before me, Seabelo (Senatla), Ruhan (Nel) and Kwagga (Smith), who set the system in place. Those guys laid a foundation, and it’s easy to walk into a system that’s already been set,” he said.
As Province prepare to travel to Pretoria for their match against the Blue Bulls on Sunday (2.30pm kickoff), it’s clear that hard work in the physical contests isn’t the only thing Kok has taken from the Sevens set-up into his 15-man journey.
He also believes that WP’s defence will be crucial if they want to keep the Bulls’ outside backs in check.
The Blitzboks have made no secret of the fact that they prioritise defence, and Kok explained that although WP are dangerous with ball-in-hand, it’s their defensive efforts that are going to determine the outcome of the fixture.
“The Bulls have a very flowing backline, so it’s going to be tough. But I think it’s going to come down to who brings it on the day and who is willing to work harder,” he said.
“Any team can attack, but you have to control the result of the game by defending.”