Blitzboks to bank on experience

Coach Neil Powell believes the availability of a number of high-profile 15s players will add a different dimension to the Blitzboks’ squad this season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

On Wednesday, nine Springboks were included in a 34-man squad announced for the 2015-16 season, with Francois Hougaard and Ryan Kankowski signing sevens contracts that will run until after the Rio Olympic Games in August.

Powell said careful planning and consideration had gone into deciding which players should earn inclusion.

‘It would be unfair to keep selection for the Olympics closed to just sevens players. We need to also open it up to 15s players who are interested and to give them a chance to put their hands up. It's important to test these players throughout the season and to allow them to show what they are capable of.’

World Cup participants Bryan Habana, Damian de Allende and Lwazi Mvovo all look set to be in contention for places in South Africa’s Olympic sevens squad, along with the likes of Juan de Jongh, Warren Whiteley, Cornal Hendricks and Oupa Mohoje.

‘If you look at the 15s players in the squad, there is a lot of experience there. A lot of them have played at the highest level, and featured for the Boks at Test level,’ Powell commented. ‘At the Olympics I think we need players who will have that big-match temperament when the pressure is on. I also feel they could offer some different skill sets. We’re also probably the smallest teams in terms of stature on the sevens circuit, so that’s why we also looked at taller guys like Warren and Ryan, who will help us compete when it comes to receiving kick-offs and so on.’

Powell also clarified how much game time he’d expect a sevens newcomer to get through in order to be considered for Olympic selection.

‘We’ll probably look for them to play between two and four tournaments based on their previous sevens experience. Players like Warren and Cornal, who have been part of this set-up before, may only need to play in two tournaments. But those who have never been in our system before, we’ll aim for them to play in a couple more, depending on their availability.’

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis