Not go­ing to Rio, will fo­cus on 15

Sevens coach not wor­ried about the two with­drawals from his Olympic Bl­itzbokke

CityPress - - Sport - LEIGHTON KOOPMAN sports@city­press.co.za

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.”

PHOTO: STEVE HAAG / GALLO IM­AGES

TOP Lions skip­per War­ren White­ley has aban­doned the squad as well. He is SA’s lead­ing num­ber eight

PHOTO: NASIEF MANIE.

UN­MOVED Sevens coach Neil Powell is not wor­ried. He says he has enough play­ers in the squad

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