Neil Powell, the Springbok Sevens coach, admitted on Tuesday he will have to make some tough choices when announcing his touring party of 12 players for the next two World Sevens Series tournaments in New Zealand and the United States. The Wellington Sevens takes place on 6 and 7 February in the New Zealand capital and will be followed by the Las Vegas Sevens a week later, where the South Africans are the defending champions. Despite the absence of Cheslin Kolbe as a result of Vodacom Super Rugby commitments with the Stormers, Powell still has a very strong group of players to choose from.
“We are really blessed to have 22 quality players available for selection. The group who played in Dubai and Port Elizabeth performed very well, while those who missed out on selection really showed amazing commitment and desire to get back into the squad,” explains Powell. The SA Sevens coach, who guided his country to their first Sevens gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last season, said he was pleased with the commitment showed at training since the squad assembled in Stellenbosch on 5 January. “We pushed them hard and they responded very well. We are looking to maintain our momentum and to keep on improving as a squad. Although we are pleased with the tournament wins in Dubai and PE, there is always room for improvement. We conceded far too many penalties in PE, with quite a few in one match at times. So we have worked hard on keeping our focus and being disciplined in the last few weeks,” explains Powell.
Last week the squad worked with Springbok breakdown consultant Richie Gray, while they called in former Test referee Freek Burger on Tuesday to assist with the interpretation of technical rules. Kyle Brown, the regular team captain, was back at training on Tuesday after enjoying a day off following his wedding this past weekend. The 12-man squad will leave for New Zealand next Friday, where they will face France, Japan and the USA in the pool stages.
South Africa are currently enjoying an eight-point lead over Fiji at the top of the World Series table after successive wins in Dubai and PE. The top four teams on the final World Series table will qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
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