Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says Ruhan Nel has always boasted the all-round attributes to make it to the highest level in fifteens, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Nel was the surprise inclusion in the Bok squad for the final two Rugby Championship Tests, with the Springbok Sevens playmaker having caught the eye after producing some impressive performances for Western Province in the Currie Cup.
Although Nel didn’t receive an opportunity to make his Test debut, the Bok coaches made no secret of the fact that they were keen to have a closer look at the dynamic centre as they continue to build towards the 2019 World Cup.
Powell has worked closely with Nel in the sevens system over the past few years and experienced first-hand how he has developed into a highly capable crossover star.
‘I’m very happy for Ruhan, he’s definitely one of the guys – especially over the past couple of years – who we really felt could make it all the way in the fifteens set-up. He’s grown and developed a lot as a player, and it’s great for him and our sevens programme.
‘We have always believed that the sevens system can be a stepping stone for players to go on to become a fifteens Springbok,’ Powell added.
‘Ruhan is such a good all-round player, he’s good on attack, boasts great distribution skills, and his defence has picked up a lot. He has great urgency when he makes tackles to get up to compete for the ball, which is not something you see a lot from most outside backs [in fifteens], but it’s an important strength as a sevens player.’
Nel is one of the 13 Boks who have been released back to their domestic teams this week, and the 27-year-old will be looking to impress once again over the latter stages of the Currie Cup.
Along with Blitzboks stars such as Kwagga Smith (Lions), Dylan Sage (Bulls), Tim Agaba (Bulls) and Seabelo Senatla (Stormers), Nel has shifted his focus to play fifteens on a full-time basis for at least the next season.