Victory of hard work over glitz sees a great distributor chosen
● Western Province’s inelegant yet highly effective outside centre Ruhan Nel may not have made the 23-man cut for yesterday’s Rugby Championship Test in Port Elizabeth but his selection to the Bok squad is a triumph of graft over glitter.
The Port Elizabeth-born 27-year-old Sevens star is a valuable cog in John Dobson’s Western Province and Neil Powell’s Springbok Sevens machineries.
Nel is part of an exciting Western Province backline that yesterday consisted of players like Josh Stander, Sergeal Petersen and Dillyn Leyds and Dobson is convinced that Nel will be capped at 15s.
“He’s got everything and the one thing you must know about the Sevens guys is that they’ve got an incredible work ethic.
“You have to look at how they train because it’s the toughest in rugby and their game contributions. In Sevens rugby you can’t lie on the ground and on the field, he’s got boundless energy,” Dobson said.
“He’s got amazing physicality and fitness but he’s also got incredible skills and also has a high number of line breaks.
“His support lines are amazing and he’s got incredible skills. At some point he’ll be capped at 15s rugby. “
Nel, who went to Die Hoerskool Brandwag in Uitenhage, first made rugby ripples eight years ago for the Pumas Under-19 side before stints with the Wits Varsity Cup side and Griquas and the Golden Lions before the move to Sevens in 2014.
Powell has seen the best of Nel in the shorter form and said Ruhan has always been a player who can adapt to any rugby code.
“Even before he came into our system, he was a good distributor and his passing was very strong. That’s a key quality that everyone looks for in a 13. It’s also not about the way he distributes, but his decision-making and finding the right person with his passes. He’s just kept on developing in our system,” Powell said.
“Coaches at 15s level have often complemented us on the Sevens players in regards to their work ethic and their return to action after making tackles from a breakdown, turnover and defensive perspective.
“That’s what we do at Sevens and we don’t have time to lie on the ground after making tackles. You’re needed defensively at all times in our game and Ruhan’s learnt all those skills.”
Dobson hasn’t identified any weaknesses in Nel’s game but said outside centre requires constant skill sharpening because of the attacking and defensive demands of the position. “The more time he spends in 15s, the more he understands the finesse of the distributing with the longer and shorter passes that are needed in the reading of the 15-man code. I’d imagine it’s still a work in progress but he certainly can pass and very well and I think he’s one of the most skilled around but 13 is the hardest channel to defend,” Dobson said.