Newbies excite Powell
Coach admits, however, it will be tough to fill Senatla, Kwagga’s shoes
SPARE a thought for Siviwe Soyizwapi and Zain Davids, These two players will go into the Wellington leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series not only having to prove their worth in the Blitzbokke but also with the knowledge that they will soon be stepping into the giant shoes of Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith.
An excited Blitzbokke team arrived in Wellington yesterday after their long haul flight from Johannesburg and while their aim is to hang on to their series lead after the tournaments in Australasia, Soyizwapi and Davids will be hoping that they will have done enough to hold on to their jerseys as well.
Senatla and Smith have long made their intention clear of reaching the same heights in the longer version of the game as they have in their time with the Sevens side and Wellington and Sydney will be their swansong – they will move on to the Stormers and Lions, respectively, to tackle this year’s Super Rugby competition.
Blitzboks coach Neil Powell, however, has no doubt that it will be a seamless transition.
Fortunately for the Mthatha-born Soyizwapi the stage won’t be too big for him as he has already played for the Blitzboks last season.
Said Powell: “I think it is going to be important for us to give Shakes (as Soyizwapi’s is also known) his fair share of game time. Obviously, Seabelo is leaving after these two tournaments and we need to get Shakes into the system as quickly as possible. (He) showed in the three tournaments that he played last year that he is capable of playing at this level. He doesn’t have the top end speed that Seabelo has but I think he’s got other attributes that can make him a top player in our set-up.”
Davids, on the other hand, is new to the Sevens scene but his talent is unquestionable. The former Rondebosch Boys’ High School pupil and Junior Springbok has a physical presence to match some of the biggest men on the circuit and compliments that with a fine set of skills.
“Kwagga is also leaving after these two tournaments and we are hoping that Kyle (Brown) will still be around when Kwagga leaves but unfortunately he is out for a long term because of his knee injury. We are looking to a guy like Zain to fill those boots of Kwagga. I think attacking wise he is really good, nice and physical, he breaks tackles and has good running skills. But for any XVs player coming to Sevens the biggest challenge will always be defence and how they understand their roles in the system. It will be good to see how he goes in this (Wellington) tournament but then again we won’t put him in the starting line-up just yet but will play him off the bench ... to see what he is capable of,” Powell said.
The Blitzbokke are in a tough pool where they face Japan, Australia and Fiji and Powell is eager to see his team do well in Wellington.
“We have a tough pool and a tough crossover pool which has New Zealand, Samoa, USA and France in it. So it’s not going to be easy and if we want to be successful in this tournament then everybody is going to have to pull their weight and be on form.”