Pending eagerly-anticipated government approval for SA Rugby’s return to training, the Springbok Sevens system hopes to be able to gradually ‘restart’ in August, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
July is the month the Blitzboks were originally scheduled to be heading off to Japan for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
However, the postponement of the Summer Games and the premature end to the 2019-20 season – with New Zealand ultimately crowned series champs – have forced a complete change in mindset and approach from the Springbok Sevens.
After an unexpectedly extended period of inactivity, the first challenge will be to rebuild players’ strength and conditioning as they begin to prepare for a new season, before setting sights on the postponed Olympics that will now kick off in July 2021.
Speaking to SA Rugby magazine, Blitzboks coach Neil Powell said there was no option but to remain adaptable during these uncertain times.
‘Even after the Olympics were postponed, we still hoped that it might be possible to complete the final four tournaments of the regular season and had turned attention to try and win the series. But obviously that couldn’t go ahead, and now we’re restarting our preparations.
‘What it has done is given us a second chance to try and perfect that Olympics preparation. We had gone through meticulous planning for this year, but obviously we did make some mistakes in the first six tournaments [of the 2019-20 season], and it’s something that we can now look to fix.’
With the Olympics in mind, the Blitzboks had rotated their squad and given different players and combinations opportunities over the first half of the 2019-20 season. It was a delicate balancing act between looking for positive results, while also exposing some newcomers to the rigours of the sevens circuit.
‘Sometimes as a coach you actually had to just say to them, “Go out and don’t be afraid to make mistakes”,’ Powell commented. ‘As long as they don’t keep repeating the same mistakes again and again, then it’s about learning from it.’
After extensive dialogue and assurances of safety precautions, it’s hoped that SA Rugby will finally receive the green light at the end of this week for players to return to training in small groups, and under strict non-contact circumstances.
Powell said the players were desperate to get back into training and that they hoped to be able to start filtering back into the system in August as they now look to get back up to speed after an unprecedented mid-year hiatus.