Blitzboks coach Neil Powell admits it is difficult to find the right balance in their preparations for the season ahead due to ongoing uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic, writes DYLAN JACK.
The SA Sevens team returned from their tour to North America – where they finished as champions and in fourth place, respectively, in Los Angeles and Vancouver – on Wednesday morning.
Ordinarily, the Blitzboks would have immediately switched their focus toward the Asia-based tournaments in Hong Kong and Singapore. However, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, both have been postponed until October, leaving a gap in the season that the team needs to fill.
Further, with the way that sporting and cultural events are being postponed or cancelled in Europe – for the greater good, admittedly – it could be that the London and Paris Sevens – which would usually close out the season – are also postponed.
Then there is a scary thought that despite the assurances from the organising committee, that the 2020 Olympic Games may have to be cancelled due the virus.
Speaking after the team arrived at their headquarters in Stellenbosch, coach Neil Powell admitted that it is difficult to plan with so much uncertainty over the schedule.
‘It is a difficult balance to get right now,’ Powell said. ‘We don’t have an exact plan about what the rest of the year will look like. They might even postpone or cancel the Olympics. We are not even sure about Paris or London. Now that the coronavirus has spread to Europe, it might be that they postpone those tournaments as well.
‘It is difficult, but we will go ahead with our plans as if we are going to play in London and Paris at the end of May. That will give us a two-week break before we come back. That is a difficult thing to get right. We will speak about a tournament that we wanted to play in Spain, but again that is in Europe.
‘We are going to have to think carefully about how we are going to plan these next two months, whether training is going to more important or game time is more important for us. We still need to sit as a management and do the review and see what is more important, whether we need the game time and have to travel to play a tournament.
‘There are other options as well – Argentina is also hosting a tournament. But that is crossing nine time zones to play a small tournament so we would prefer to go to Europe, but we might not do that due to the coronavirus.’
Powell added that if things do pan out as planned, the team’s management would look to start finalising their plans for the Olympics in terms of the Blitzboks’ squad and style of play.
‘We will continue with our plans. We were hoping to have Hong Kong and Singapore as well. In the last few tournaments in an Olympic year, we usually start shifting our focus to the Olympics. We will definitely use London and Paris as an opportunity to start looking at combinations and see who we still need to test and if there is still something we need to change with how we play.
‘What we said as management was to perhaps play a tournament after Paris, when we get the likes of Rosko and those guys back who we think will take us to the Olympics. It is not a given yet – we still need to announce that squad. I think it is more important to get game time between London, Paris and the Olympics, rather than between now and London. We will have to balance that and see what is more important.’
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