Juggling act for Blitzbok coach
Blitzboks coach Neil Powell will have to master a fine balancing act between experience and youth when he names his squad for the first two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town for the 2016/17 World Rugby Sevens Series.
As much as Powell will want to retain as many of the players he used during last season’s series and at the Rio Olympic Games, the reality is that many of his senior stars will make a return to the longer version of the game, among them Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith.
Senatla and Smith will only feature in tournaments in Dubai, Cape Town, Wellington and Sydney before they rejoin their respective Super Rugby teams in their bid to now become Springboks.
It is also the end of the road for the likes of Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh and Francois Hougaard who had been brought into the Sevens fray to help bolster the team ahead of the Olympic Games.
Powell was dealt a severe blow earlier this week when hard man Tim Agaba was ruled out for the Dubai and Cape Town tournaments because of an ankle injury, while Kyle Brown stepped down as captain with Philip Snyman taking over the reins.
Powell’s biggest headache will be integrating the young and untested players into the side while remaining highly competitive in the series with SA Schools flank JC Pretorius among the youngsters likely to make his debut early in the season.
“We won’t use the fifteens players this season and we’ve decided to get some youngsters in that we think will take us to the 2020 Olympics,” said Powell. “The first goal will be to win the world series and the second will be to develop some players. We’ll be allowed to take 13 players on tour this season so for the first two tournaments we’ll select the strongest team possible and from there on see if we can take one or two youngsters to give them exposure and get them ready for the future.”
Powell has also made it clear that his side will need to make a step up in performance and make certain that they take their game to the next level by not finishing second in the series and instead become world champions.
“We definitely want to improve on our performances from the last three years and second in the last three years is definitely not good enough for us.
“Hopefully we can take one more step and become the number one team in the world but it is not just going to happen. We will still set our goals for the season and also look into the future with the Commonwealth Games and World Cup in 2018.
“The plans are in place to get the youngsters in, develop them and try to get players to replace the guys who wonâ€™t make it to the Olympics in 2020,” Powell said.