CAPE TOWN – While Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell says they need to focus on winning finals going forward, he’s pleased with what they’ve achieved this season.
The Blitzboks secured the bronze medal at the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco this past weekend after also winning back-to-back World Sevens Series titles earlier this season.
And while they missed out on a podium finish on Australia’s Gold Coast at the Commonwealth Games, Powell lauded the consistency his team have shown in 2018.
“I’m really satisfied with the year,” he said upon arrival at the Cape Town International airport yesterday.
“I think that our consistency was good this year. We played in every semi-final - including the World Series, the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.
“I think we just have to focus on getting through to and winning those finals. We would have wanted to do better in the one-off tournaments, but you aren’t always going to win all the tournaments and sometimes some of these teams come at you with something you haven’t seen before.
“It is what it is and unfortunately that’s the thing about Sevens, one hop of the ball can let a game go the other way. “
The Blitzboks were seeded first for the event at AT&T Park, and after the season they’ve had, they were of course one of the favourites going into the World Cup.
A semi-final stumble against England ruined the South Africans’ chances of claiming the Melrose Cup for the first time ever. And while they didn’t manage to go all the way in the big one-off events in Rio, Australia and the USA, Powell reckons it’s something that they certainly have to look at, but not occurrences they have to be too worried about.
“We’ve won medals at three out of the four tournaments we’ve been involved in (World Series, Rio Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup). But we definitely want to play in the final, and we’ve only achieved that once (World Cup final, 1997),” he explained.
“It’s definitely something we’ll look at. We’re not worried about it, but we will look at it and try and take a few lessons of out of the events where we didn’t play in the final, especially the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.”
The Blitzboks went to San Francisco with a brimming pot in the talent department, but it was also a team that was without the experience of Seabelo Senatla, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika, Tim Agaba, Chris Dry and Stedman Gans due to injury, while only skipper Philip Snyman had World Cup experience.
But the World Cup experience that some of the younger guys gained proved valuable, according to Powell, who also said that the experience the players racked up now will come in handy at the next Olympics.
“If you look at the team we had ...on paper we could have chosen a much better team if some of our players weren’t injured. But I think the team we had at the World Cup really did well, and it’s valuable experience they gained. Many of these guys will probably play in the Olympics in 2020. So the experience will come in handy.”