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Powell seeks immediate success

Wed, 04 Dec 2013 16:45
Neil-powell-interviewed Kolbe-sevens630 Sevenssampiemastriet
It is important to get Super Rugby players into our squads
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Neil Powell, as has been evident since the beginning of his tenure as BlitzBok coach, is driven to achieve immediate success with his side.

Powell, a former Springbok Sevens captain, took over the coaching reins from Paul Treu ahead of the start of the 2013-14 IRB Sevens World Series and has enjoyed a successful start to his tenure.

While he is yet to win a title as head coach, Powell guided the BlitzBokke to a fourth-place finish in the series-opening Gold Coast Sevens and led them to the Cup Final of last weekend’s Dubai Sevens, where South Africa succumbed 17-29 to Fiji.

Powell’s charges head into this weekend’s home leg in Port Elizabeth third on the series standings on 34 points, one point behind second-placed Fiji and five points behind leaders New Zealand.

In a questions and answers session with fans on the South African Rugby Union’s website, Powell confirmed that he’s focused on obtaining immediate success as opposed to building towards the 2016 Olympic Games.

Powell also didn’t rule out the possibility of roping in leading players of the 15-man code to bolster the team ahead of the Rio Games.

“Although we are planning for 2016, we need to be successful immediately. Before thinking of the Olympic Games itself, we have to focus on qualifying in 2015.

“The Springbok Sevens Academy is an important part of [that] plan, as well as building relationships with all provinces to allow us to have access to the best available players, both for the Sevens World Series and the Olympics,” he said.

Powell acknowledged that bringing in 15-man playmakers like Western Province youngster Cheslin Kolbe and Bulls speedster on short-term deals could hamper continuity, but said it would yield long-term benefits.  

“Cheslin and Sampie are only available for Dubai and PE, but the rest of the non-contracted players will be available for the entire Sevens World Series,” Powell explained.  

“We agree with you [a fan] that we have to build a core group, but it is important to get Super Rugby players like Cheslin and Sampie into our squads with 2016 in mind, as they can potentially make the Olympic team.

“Both of them have been in our structures before [Cheslin through the Springbok Sevens Academy] and they both fit in well with our core group and culture.”

Powell said Kolbe is a special talent but stressed there would be no sole game breaker in the squad.

“I think it’s important that the players understand that it is a team effort and we don't rely on just one player to make a difference.

“We'd like all the players to take responsibility for the performance of the team. It is obviously great to have a player with "X-factor", like Cheslin, in our team though”

Strategically, Powell said they will look to keep things simple and would not reintroduce rarely used Sevens tactics like tactical kicking and line-out mauls into the BlitzBok gameplan.   

“Our core focus area is to get our basic rugby fundamentals in place. Once we execute the basics as well as we possibly can, we will be more consistent and more successful. There is definitely lots of room in Sevens for innovation, but I feel as though we should focus on the basics now.”

He ruled out recalling Tonderai Chavhanga, who represented the BlitzBokke in 2003 and holds the Springbok record for the most tries scored in a match (six against Uruguay in 2005).  

“Tonderai isn't on our radar at the moment, however he was a good Sevens player in his time with the team. Tonderai was very quick, but we have quite a bit of pace in our squad at the moment with Jamba Ulengo, Sampie Mastriet and Seabelo Senatla.”

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