The 15-a-side players that may arrest the BlitzBoks' slide
South Africa’s national Sevens team has gone hand-in-cap to the franchises in a desperate attempt to arrest the slide that has seen them go from second on the World Series standings to seventh in the past fortnight.
Their dire performances in Los Angeles (just one win, with losses to amongst others Uruguay) and Vancouver (not even making the Cup play-offs) has been a cause for alarm over the state of a team that for many years was always in the hunt for the World Series crown.
It has also not reflected very well on new BlitzBok coach Sandile Ngcobo, having taken over from Neil Powell at the start of the 2022-23 season.
The national Sevens coach, Ngcobo, in saying they are not an ‘excuses’ team, revealed that there are currently 15 frontline players in the casualty ward – of which 10 are ‘senior’ players.
“It is very difficult reaching your goals without those key players,” he said about the desire to finish in the top four on the World Series standings – which guarantees automatic qualification for the Olympic Games.
He added that they are ‘hard at work’ trying to lure some quality back from the 15-a-side code to cover for the vacancies created by the loss of players like Shaun Williams, Dewald Human, Selvyn Davids, Justin Gelduld and Ronald Brown.
Part of the problem, Ngcobo said, was that all competitions – from age group to the Currie Cup, United Rugby Championship and European Cup – are overlapping with Seven’s World Series.
“Everyone wants to do well,” Ngcobo told @rugby365com, when asked about the possibility of luring some quality back from the 15-a-side code.
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“It’s a process,” he said, adding: “That’s why we have Rassie, Charles and Marius working behind the scenes to try and get us a JC Pretorius back [from the Lions], or a Yaw Penxe [from the Sharks], a Rosko Specman [from Griquas].
“[That is] to help us with some sort of experience, so it doesn’t take that long to bring them in and develop them.
“We need a solution for right now, until our injuries are cleared.”
South Africa’s Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus pointed out that Ngcobo’s predecessor Neil Powell, now the Director of Rugby at the Sharks, found himself in a similar position before winning the Commonwealth Games gold.
“Neil [Powell] has to provide for his family [as DoR] at the Sharks and Griquas want to win the Currie Cup,” Erasmus said.
He pointed out that there is already pressure on the franchises with the Springboks having been pulled out of the URC for a World Cup rest and conditioning cap.
“Sometimes it is just the timing,” the SARU boss said, adding: “[when] everybody is under pressure it is difficult.”
It was confirmed that three players will be joining the Sevens squad this coming Sunday, although they were not willing to confirm if those are the aforementioned players – Pretorius, Penxe and Specman.
Erasmus said they are still waiting for a ‘sign-off’ from the franchises.