Why can’t the Boks learn from the Bl­itzboks?

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa

un­prece­dented eight games.

The lat­ter are sup­posed to be SA Rugby’s main brand, but one has to ad­mit that our real am­bas­sadors are now the Bl­itzboks.

They may not have won the World Se­ries since 2009, but through­out this time, they have re­mained pas­sion­ate – con­stantly el­bow­ing for room at the busi­ness end of sub­se­quent tour­na­ments and win­ning Com­mon­wealth gold in 2014. By con­trast, the last time the Boks were con­sis­tently com­pet­i­tive was in 2009.

The Bl­itzboks have shown an im­prove­ment this year, win­ning three out of the four events staged in the new sea­son and making it to the fi­nals of a tour­na­ment which, al­though they did not win, clinched them 85 log points out of a pos­si­ble 88.

The Spring­boks’ many is­sues, from un­cer­tainty about their coach to the kind of game they want to play, have been well doc­u­mented.

But how is it pos­si­ble for the Sevens team to thrive while their Bok coun­ter­parts have nose-dived?

One ironic an­swer could be that SA Rugby is in full con­trol of the Sevens pro­gramme, whereas the Boks’ sched­ule is not en­tirely in its hands.

Sevens coach Neil Pow­ell is con­tracted by SA Rugby, as are his play­ers, so they are free to get on with their work with­out the in­ter­fer­ence of pro­vin­cial unions or, lately, Euro­pean or Ja­panese clubs.

It helps that the Sevens are a small team and can keep out of the glare of a bliss­fully un­aware South African pub­lic and its pro­vin­cial unions, but the right things have also been done in putting the Sevens side to­gether.

The first was choos­ing coach Paul Treu, who set a fine ex­am­ple and got the ball rolling by play­ing for the Sevens be­tween 1999 and 2003, and be­com­ing head coach in 2004 un­til his res­ig­na­tion in 2013. Keep­ing his suc­ces­sor, Pow­ell, on, re­gard­less of how of­ten he came close to win­ning with­out do­ing so, was also a good move.

That the Sevens have a per­ma­nent base in Stel­len­bosch and do not move around the coun­try like their Bok

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