Blitzboks boss Neil Powell says player management and rotation will be of utmost importance during this season’s World Rugby Sevens Series, which kicks off on Thursday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The first event of the 10-tournament series gets under way in Dubai this week, with the Blitzboks starting their all-important 2019-20 season with a pool match against Kenya on Thursday.
After a rather slow and subdued start in 2018, South Africa eventually finished fourth in the standings last season and will be looking for an improved showing across the new campaign. However, with the 2020 Olympics looming large, Powell admits knowing when to prioritise one competition over another throughout a demanding season will be a tough balancing act.
‘We want to keep the players we feel will play at the Olympics match fit but also injury free. We do have a plan in place [to achieve both],’ Powell told SARugbymag.co.za.
‘We are happy where we are in our preparation, we’ve added three warm-up tournaments and I think we’re definitely more prepared now than we were last year this time. So, I’m looking forward to it.
‘It’s also going to be interesting to see how the other teams go into the World Series and work out plan to keep their players fresh and injury free for the Olympics and to see who the unions bring in. I mean, Great Britain are always a surprise because they don’t play as Great Britain on the series but rather as individual countries.
‘It’s going to be am interesting series. It will be particularly fascinating to see how the USA team does, after a successful campaign last season where they came second just three points behind Fiji in the series.’
Touching on the new recruits brought into the Blitzboks set-up, Powell enthusiastically rattles off the names of those who are in line to make their debut this season.
‘Most of the guys have played in the series over the last couple of years, like Kurt-Lee Arendse and JC Pretorius. I feel one of the players that have been in our system for while but has been hampered by injuries is Mfundo Ndhlovu. He is very talented and when he gets an extended run everyone will see what he is really capable off.
‘We’ve got one or two other players that will be part of the system this season, players who will probably make a name for themselves in the series. The 19-year-old Christie Grobbelaar is still raw and inexperienced but very talented. Malcolm Jaer is a good player that we got from the Cheetahs and then also Darren Adonis, Andrew Kota and Ronald Brown.
‘Another one I look to see feature in the World Series for us is Hacjivah Dayimani. He has all the attributes to make it in sevens and I think we’ll follow his four tournaments with us closely and see how he develops his game.’
The Blitzboks’ game against Kenya kicks off at 5:54pm today. They then take on Spain and England on Friday.