Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
20 Jan 2017
11:09 am

Seabelo Senatla’s gospel: It’s all about staying chilled

Heinz Schenk

The Blitzboks star waves goodbye to sevens in the next two weeks as he walks into the lions' den of 15-man rugby ... and high expectations.

Seabelo Senatla is not flustered by the high expectations of his return to 15-man rugby. Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images.

In Davos this week, Pravin Gordhan admitted he’s steeling himself for “political noise” in 2017 over the ANC succession  battle.

Seabelo Senatla is doing the same, though the noise he’ll hear is, well, about Seabelo Senatla.

It’s likely that no other South African rugby player will grab more attention this year than the Blitzboks talisman.

Also read: ‘Stupid’ Seabelo Senatla chose to miss Blitzboks final

In the next two weeks, Senatla – along with nippy Lions flanker Kwagga Smith – will play his last two tournaments for the national sevens side this season before focusing on 15-man rugby full-time.

Given that the 23-year-old is the current World Sevens Player of the Year, it’s understandable that the Blitzboks are feeling down a bit at losing their star player.

Yet the expectations of him performing well in his sevens swansong in Wellington and Sydney won’t compare to the miracles he’ll have to perform at wing for the Stormers … and possibly the Springboks.

Senatla is indeed already being hailed a some sort of try-scoring messiah.

Just how tough is it being him?

“Frankly, I don’t take myself too seriously,” says Senatla before the team’s departure this weekend.

“The attention is something I deal with fairly easily. I’ve always tried to be honest with myself because I grew up in humble circumstances. That is why you can’t think too much of yourself.”

Thankfully, that doesn’t mean Senatla is a humourless drone.

In fact, his bubbliness is quite infectious.

“People think South African rugby doesn’t encourage individuality. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Senatla.

“The culture in this side is amazing. I’m around caring people who keep me grounded. But there are personalities in this side, just not big-headed ones.”

It also explains why Senatla is more than comfortable telling one why he’ll be a successful wing in the 15-man version of the game.

Pointing out unique strengths isn’t necessarily a sign of arrogance.

“My aerial skills are quite good, but I think if I refine it further, I’ll be a really good wing,” he says.

“I’m not the guy who sits and relaxes on the wing. I like being involved, I want to look for work. You’ll always see me in the thick of things during a sevens match.

“Sevens has also taught me to be a ruthless defender. You need a holistic approach if you want to be a modern wing.”

But before he embarks on the “very exciting” new journey, it’s time to be try glutton once more.

“I try not to enter things with emotion. These last two sevens tournaments aren’t sad occasions,” says Senatla.

“My own thinking is merely ‘give it my all’. This system has given me everything, it’s made me the player I am. I want to give everything back that I can. I still want to go out and say ‘my hand is up’ ”

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