BlitzBokke have right building blocks
EXCLUSIVE: Their main rivals may be scrambling to bring in superstars from the 15-man code, but the SA Sevens team has a more balanced approach.
While their main rivals are scrambling to bring in as many superstars from the 15-man code as possible, the South African Sevens team has a far more balanced approach.
BlitzBok coach Neil Powell, speaking to rugby365 in an exclusive interview in the wake of his team's Commonwealth gold medal-winning performance, said they will build from he 'top and bottom' - as they look to rugby's return to the Olympics at Rio 2016.
SA's 17-12 win over arch-rivals New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games Final in Glasgow last weekend has caused more than just a ripple of discord in Aotearoa.
In fact, so bad has the disharmony been among the Kiwis it has even been suggested that New Zealand should exact retribution by sending a Dream Team to Rio in 2016 - suggesting that just about every Test (15-man) All Black who can trot a bit quicker than Owen Franks must be lined up to join one of those infamous New Zealand campaigns to right the wrongs.
And they are not alone in wanting to lure platoons of superstars from the 15-a-side game to Sevens in the next two years.
There is no denying that a couple of 15-man players - Lions loose forward Warren Whiteley and new Springbok Cornal Hendricks - were key figures in the Glasgow triumph.
However, they are not exactly Sevens rookies. In fact they have a strong pedigree in the abbreviated version of the game.
It just so happens they have played a bit more in the 15-man version recently.
"The fact that Cornal [Hendricks] and Warren [Whiteley] have been part of the team before and that they have the basic principles of the Sevens game made the transition much easier," Powell told rugby365, when asked about the influence of 15-a-side players.
"It would have been a much tougher transition for a guy who has never played any Sevens before," he said, adding: "That is the direction we want to move to, looking forward to the Olympic Games [in Rio in 2016]."
Powell made it clear they want a bigger pool of players with previous Sevens experience to select from when they get to the Olympic Games.
And while bringing players with Sevens experience back from the 15-man code is great, Powell and his coaching staff are also looking to building from the bottom up.
"That is where the Academy [in Stellenbosch] will play a major role for us next year," the BlitzBok coach said.
"It has played an important role in the past.
"Guys like Werner Kok, Kwagga [Albertus] Smith, Justin Geduld, Cheslin Kolbe and WJ [Willem] Strydom were players that were involved in our very first year at the Academy.
"It is important that we get the Academy into full swing and build from the bottom as well."
By Jan de Koning
* Don't miss the rest of our interviews with the victorious BlitzBokke, where we continue to speak with Powell about his plans for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, we chat to Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks and also bring you the view of SA Sevens captain Kyle Brown, who may have to undergo surgery to repair the shoulder injury he sustained in the Final in Glasgow.