CAPE TOWN - Cliches and rugby, the two go hand in hand. Or, rather, cliches and rugby interviews go hand in hand.
There’s “rugby is a game of two halves”, “it’s not about me, it’s about the team”, “you have to win the set-piece battle first”, “you can’t just run the ball from everywhere” (a couple of words that make me cringe more than never-ending scrum resets). And, if sarcasm could be vividly portrayed in text, I’d say that my favourite overused rugby phrase is “playing in the right areas of the field”. And so we can go on and on.
Something that has also become somewhat of a cliche, or rather a frequently-expressed notion, is coaches’ appreciation for the work rate that Sevens players who dabble in fifteens bring to the expanded game. If you ask any fifteens coach what stands out about a Sevens player, you will be right almost every time if your guess was that he’d say “work rate” or “work ethic” (and conditioning, not sure which one wins here). And however many times it’s been said - you really can’t underestimate the contribution that these men make in the 80-minute game. So I’d say that it’s an acceptable thing to highlight, however many times that may be.
And, just like many other Sevens okes, the work rate of Werner Kok is something special, although he offers much, much more than that. His performances are just one of the many Sevens treats we can expect to see at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday and Sunday, when the Blitzboks will aim to make it two celebrations in a row after lifting the Cup in Dubai at the weekend.
The 24-year-old has showed what he brings to the game of rugby every time he’s got to wear the Western Province jersey during this year’s Currie Cup. Yeah, that eagerness to get stuck in almost everywhere might have, at times, caused a bit of concern in terms of his positional play, but it’s been more good than bad. And it was evident that he got more used to the dos and don’ts when it comes to having 14 teammates the more he played.
Of course he didn’t really have to get used to those dos and don’ts - it was probably more about temporarily shaking off those Sevens habits and making room for the fifteens etiquette.
But this weekend - when the Blitzboks look to go for gold at Cape Town Stadium after missing out in the final in front of a pumping South African crowd last year - it will be all about his Sevens arsenal when the 2015 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year will again be a key man to watch.
Since making his international Sevens debut at the London Sevens in 2013, Kok was part of the team that won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He was instrumental in the Blitzboks’ run in the 2014-15 season - which helped them finish second on the standings and gain automatic qualification to the Rio Olympics. And just as he was a vital cog in the Springbok Sevens side in 2014, he was even bigger in 2015. And, since then, not much has changed.
His breakdown work, blistering pace, knack for smashing the opposition on defence (an activity he enjoys quite a bit) and strong carrying have become well-known gems, and it’s been a crucial part of the Springbok Sevens team’s many success stories. And I don’t see that changing in the Mother City.
As always, Werner Kok will be one to watch this weekend, and that is a cliche worth repeating.
What an amazing week in Dubai. Thanks to my brothers for a memorable weekend. Love you guys so much. #rugby #sevens #brothers #family Thank you for all the support from all over the world! pic.twitter.com/kpT3Q95Ia3