Werner Kok says his recovery from a serious knee injury is progressing well and that he is determined to earn inclusion in the Blitzboks’ Olympic squad, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Last November, Kok received the highest honour when he was named World Rugby’s Sevens Player of the Year after a stellar 2014-15 season. However, just over a month after receiving the award, Kok suffered a major setback when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligaments in the first leg of this season’s World Rugby Sevens Series.
It was an injury that required surgery, and over the past 18 weeks, Kok has undergone an intensive rehabilitation programme that has often tested his mental and physical resolve.
‘It was obviously a major blow when I got injured, I was really looking forward to the Cape Town Sevens and the series as a whole,’ Kok tells SARugbymag.co.za. ‘It’s strange how life works sometimes. It hasn't been easy to watch from the sidelines, but at least this time has provided an opportunity for me to rest, while it has made me even hungrier to go to the Olympics.’
Kok is targeting a return to the playing field in an invitational tournament that will take place in Rome in mid-June, and which will serve as an important part of the Blitzboks’ final preparations for the Olympics in August.
It will also present Kok with an opportunity to pick up where he left off.
‘I’m slightly ahead of schedule with regard to my recovery, but I’m going to take all the time needed,’ he says. ‘It’s an injury that generally requires a six-month recovery period. So I don’t want to push it or risk coming back too soon.
‘The Olympics is what I’ve been working towards. So for me, it’s now just about proving that I can get back to form and that I can hit the ground running again. I know I will need to perform well to get picked.’
The Blitzboks are currently second on the World Rugby Sevens Series standings, with two legs left to play, and Kok acknowledged that he would have to face serious competition for a place in the final Olympics squad.
‘I think the guys have really done well this season. It’s obviously been rough not to be part of the squad, and it’s something I’ve really missed. The competition is always tough, every guy will be giving his all, and with a number of 15s players joining the sevens regulars, it obviously has become even more intense. But I think it’s been healthy, and it has added to the team’s depth.
‘I just need to start from the beginning again and try to get back to where I was,' he adds. 'It’s about building my way back to form and giving everything I can to make the squad. Hopefully that will be good enough.’
Photo: Dan Mullan/World Rugby