Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
31 Jan 2019
9:49 am

Is 2019 the second coming of Seabelo Senatla?

Heinz Schenk

Burdened by injuries and overblown expectations previously, the Blitzboks legend has given himself a clean slate in fifteens.

Seabelo Senatla during the DHL Stormers training session at High Performance Centre on April 30, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

By now, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ message for the World Cup is clear: if you perform, I will pick you regardless of previous pedigree.

Various national players have confirmed that.

It’s also good news for a man like Seabelo Senatla.

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Hailed as one of the greatest players to don a sevens jersey – 224 tries attests to that – the 25-year-old’s decision to focus on fifteens full-time in 2017 naturally led to a lot of excitement … and expectations.

Needless to say, it hasn’t gone all that well as injuries and his previous commitment to still represent the Blitzboks in certain tournaments took its toll.

However, perhaps Senatla’s biggest failing has been that he’s simply put too much pressure on himself.

It’s the reason he needs a clean slate.

And he’s given it to himself.

“I always put the most pressure on myself to perform because I believe I have the skills,” said the Stormers flyer.

“I’m not going to focus on more than making an impact at the Stormers. I’m not worrying about the Springboks.”

What is particularly encouraging is that Senatla has had his first proper pre-season with the Cape-based Super Rugby franchise, meaning he’s no longer playing catch-up.

“I was in the deep end in terms of gameplan and the systems‚ and I always had to try and catch up as I wasn’t part of the pre-season. Secondly I wasn’t always fully conditioned for fifteen-man rugby,” he said.

“This time I’ve been able to condition my body and to be in the system‚ which allows me to understand the gameplan better.”

The gamebreaker from Welkom clearly has also taken a leaf out of Bok wing Makazole Mapimpi’s book, who was last year praised by Erasmus as “the players who’s improved the most in the camp”.

Mapimpi, like Senatla, is a try-scoring machine, but made a conscious effort to improve the “unfashionable” yet vital aspects of wing play.

“It’s no secret that I needed to work on my kicking‚ and improve under the high ball and my positioning‚” Senatla said.

“Those are pivotal fundamentals of playing in the back three.

“I’m praying for a big year‚ but I’m also working for it.”

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