Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says lessons learned from their Commonwealth Games’ failure helped them defend their World Rugby Sevens Series crown. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Blitzboks clinched the series ― after playing 10 tournaments around the globe over eight months ― with a thrilling victory over England in the final of the Paris Sevens. South Africa finished just two points ahead of Fiji in the series standings.
After arriving back in Cape Town on Tuesday, Powell defended his decision to rest his first-choice team for the Hong Kong Sevens, which took place before the Commonwealth Games, and as well as several senior players for the subsequent Singapore Sevens, as it benefitted the Blitzboks in the long-term.
‘I never doubted that plan, even after we failed to get a medal at the Games [the Blitzboks finished fourth]. It was always a good plan and one that we, as a management team and senior players, sat and discussed.
‘I knew it was going to be a long season and that if we didn’t look after our players, we would get to the end of the season in London and Paris and the guys wouldn’t be able to perform.
‘Our focus was off for the Games but we learned from that to focus on each of our roles and responsibilities [for the rest of the series].
‘I actually told the guys not to look at their phones, so that they don’t shift their focus. Normally they would take their phones out after a game, look at social media and the messages from back home. I told them not to touch their phones between the quarters and the semis and again after the semi-final.’
Powell said he was satisfied with his team’s progress.
‘It was a different season with the Commonwealth Games,’ he said. ‘It’s amazing that we used 28 players and there are a lot of youngsters who got their opportunity to play in the Sevens Series.
‘Credit must go to the players for keeping the focus after that quarter-final against Spain where we did not perform well [the Blitzboks won 15-10 after extra-time]. They knew that Fiji were out of the tournament [after losing to England in the quarter-finals] and that if they won the tournament they would win the series. The composure and mental strength they showed was amazing.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images