With just two tournaments remaining in the World Rugby Sevens Series, Ryan Kankowski will need to make the most of his opportunities at the Paris and London Sevens, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Blitzboks’ squad for the Rio Olympics has slowly begun to take shape as a number of 15s players have fallen by the wayside during the course of the season, but coach Neil Powell insists there are still a few places up for grabs.
The Springbok Sevens team will feature in an invitational tournament in Rome in June, which will provide Powell with one final opportunity to look at some players, but it’s really the next two legs of the series that will provide further meaningful insights.
Kankowski signed a full-time sevens contract last year with a view to earning his place in the Olympic squad, but his involvement this season has been limited by injury and illness since rejoining the Blitzboks from Japan.
At last week's squad announcement for the Paris Sevens, Powell told SARugbymag.co.za that it would be important to provide the likes of Kankowski with ample opportunity to stake their claim for selection.
‘There’s a lot we can still learn as we go into these final two tournaments. There are still one or two players who we want to afford some game time and see what they’re capable of. Ryan Kankowski is certainly one of those guys, he came off the bench in Hong Kong and Singapore, but we need to give him an opportunity to start against quality opponents at some point in these next two tournaments.’
Besides another opportunity for Kankowski to showcase his talents, Powell has recalled four players for the Paris Sevens, with Francois Hougaard, Rosco Speckman, Philip Snyman and Dylan Sage returning to the squad.
‘There’s still opportunities for guys to put up their hands and show that they deserve to go to Rio,’ Powell commented. ‘We’ll sit down after the series and assess where we stand, although there is still the Rome tournament to come after that when some guys can get another run.’
It’s at this event where Powell is likely to reintroduce Werner Kok to action. The World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year has been out of action since the first leg of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligaments, but he has been slowly working his way back to full fitness.
‘The most important thing for the way forward for Werner is just to ensure we don’t push him too hard, too quickly,’ Powell explained. ‘He’s had a bad knee injury and we need to handle his return intelligently. We can’t risk rushing his return, but it would be great to have him back in action. We owe him the opportunity to be able to try and make the Olympic squad, and the camp in June will be important in that regard.’
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