Not going to Rio, will focus on 15
Sevens coach not worried about the two withdrawals from his Olympic Blitzbokke
Warren Whiteley and Damian de Allende’s withdrawal from the Blitzbokke Olympic squad can be seen as a blessing in disguise for coach Neil Powell.
The two were still part of the group until last week but have not played in any of the eight sevens tournaments this year.
Also, Powell would not have been able to consider them for the last two in Paris and London because of the Super Rugby series.
The Paris tournament will be decided this weekend and the one in London a week later.
Both informed Powell in the past week that they were withdrawing from the group and would focus on the Super Series and the Springboks. This means Powell can choose players for his larger Olympic squad.
It will be named on June 1, from those who have already played for him in this year’s sevens tournaments and he will not be under pressure to choose any Springboks that he may have wanted to use. It will also eliminate any possible disruption in the team.
De Allende has not really been able get good playing time this season because of a serious ankle injury and does not look like the player he was in 2015.
Also, he has had two bad games for the Stormers, and it would be difficult for him to break into the Blitzbokke group after only a few tournaments.
He therefore decided to focus on his game in the 15-man code and bid farewell to his Olympic dream.
Whiteley, currently the leading number eight in South Africa, decided to abandon his Olympic dream, which also raised eyebrows.
He would have been a strong contender for a place in Powell’s Olympic group because he has played for the Blitzbokke previously.
The Lions captain won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 with the Springbok Sevens team.
However, he is currently leading a Lions team that is one of the top sides in the Super Cup series, and with the Springbok No 8 berth a possibility because of his excellent form, he also decided to leave the Sevens and focus on the 15-man game.
Powell said earlier this week their withdrawal was a setback, but there were enough good players in the squad so it would not affect their campaign.
“Both of them want to focus on their fifteens and hope to make the Springbok squad for the June Test series. However, they would still have had to show up and prove themselves before the Games.
“But I’m happy with the forwards in our group where they [Damian and Warren] would have played.”
TOP Lions skipper Warren Whiteley has abandoned the squad as well. He is SA’s leading number eight
UNMOVED Sevens coach Neil Powell is not worried. He says he has enough players in the squad