The Vodacom United Rugby Championship has catapulted Seabelo Senatla forward in his quest for Springbok glory.
The URC has brought out the very best in the electric winger, helping to propel the DHL Stormers into the running for a home quarter-final and giving credence to Senatla’s long-stated dream of earning a call-up to the Test squad.
Only teammate Leolin Zas has scored more tries in the competition this season as Senatla has streaked over for nine five-pointers in 13 matches.
This success comes as no surprise when viewed against the backdrop of the sprinter from Welkom exploding onto the World Rugby Sevens scene in 2013 and, over the course of the next five years, scoring 230 tries in 213 matches for the Blitzboks.
It’s been years since Senatla was at the heart of Springbok Sevens plans for world domination, yet the 29-year-old remains South Africa’s all-time leading try scorer, and is tied fourth overall for all players.
However, the extraordinary strike rate did not follow Senatla from the sevens circuit to Super Rugby where he dotted down eight times in 35 appearances for the Stormers over six seasons.
In conjunction with what seemed to be fading superpowers as a finisher, there were times when Senatla’s aptitude in other facets of the game came into question.
With a work ethic to match his athletic talent, Senatla devoted himself to improving, but even though he made strides towards becoming a more complete player, his progress was repeatedly hampered by a lack of playing time.
However, the launch of the URC signalled a sea change for Senatla who hasn’t missed a game since the fifth round of the competition, logging 80-minute performances in all but one match to rank among the Stormers players with the most flying time.
Senatla flew into action on his tournament debut to score a try in a 37-19 win against the Emirates Lions, and he followed that up with a hat-trick against Zebre Parma, which included a display of his raw pace in converting a turnover into a 65-metre try.
In January, the speedster struck twice against the Vodacom Bulls and then made the final try-scoring pass in a 30-26 victory at Loftus Versfeld.
The return of Senatla’s attacking prowess was eye-catching. Even more integral to the Stormers’ success was the value of his positive contributions in the kicking game and at the breakdown which earned the speedster an invitation from Jacques Nienaber to the recent Bok alignment camps.
In the URC, Senatla has finally found his fifteens feet and the Stormers will be relying on him to be at full speed when they race Scarlets for the right to bring a quarter-final to Cape Town Stadium.