Blitzboks retain Powell

Neil Powell will continue to coach the Blitzboks in the lead-up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Blitzboks finished the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in third place. In the wake of that performance, SA Rugby has sought to lock down Powell for another four years.

'Neil is highly sought-after on the international sevens circuit and we’re very grateful and excited that he will remain at the helm of the Blitzboks,' said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

Powell hoped that the team would develop further in the lead-up to the next Olympic event in Tokyo. 'I can’t wait to get stuck in as we aim to raise the bar even further this season,' he said.

Meanwhile, the Springbok Sevens squad started their preparations for the 2016/17 World Rugby Sevens Series in Stellenbosch earlier this week. The South Africans took overall second place in the 2015/16 series that ended in June.

'The guys needed the break and it is good to see them back here,' said Powell. 'They are keen to get going, but this will not be an easy couple of weeks. We are going to work hard and there is lots of hard work to be done.

'The main focus areas we want to work on will be strength, conditioning and fitness. After that we will start looking at skills training and game plans. We then have a warm-up tournament in Namibia in November and then the season kicks off proper in Dubai and Cape Town.'

The 10-tournament series commences in Dubai on 2 December. South Africa is seeded second for the tournament and will play USA, Scotland and Uganda in pool B. The Dubai tournament will be followed by the HSBC Cape Town Sevens on 10-11 December.

In a move that will align the annual World Rugby Sevens Series with the Olympic Games, World Rugby has also announced a restructure of the final competition day. It will now feature gold, silver and bronze medals for the first time.

The traditional Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield format will be replaced by two competitions. The top two teams in each pool will progress to the Cup competition and the chance to win a gold medal, while lower-ranked teams will contest a new Challenge Trophy competition.

The restructure means that each series event will climax with the 13th-place positional playoff, followed by the Challenge Trophy (ninth place), the fifth place playoff, bronze medal match and the gold medal match (Cup winners). The number of matches the teams play across each event remains the same, as does the points distribution.

Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli