PORT ELIZABETH — The future of South Africa’s sevens rugby looks much brighter after the Blitsbokke’s winning streak during the weekend’s Nelson Mandela Bay tournament.
Apart from defeating New Zealand for a change, a few new diamonds have been discovered. The brightest new star is Werner Kok, who has been given some playing time prior to this weekend’s tournament.
However, it was very encouraging to see how the 20-year-old Nelspruit product grabbed his chances, this time with open hands.
He is strong, quick and very focused — everything that a player needs to become a successful sevens competitor.
Kwagga Smith (20) too, who played in his first International Rugby Board sevens tournament, showed much promise.
It’s understandable to be excited if one keeps in mind that other 20-year-olds such as Justin Geduld and Cheslin Kolbe are still regarded as rookies in the international arena. One thing is certain: if you are chosen by Blitsbokke coach Neil Powell to join his group, you are not going to be there merely to keep the reserve bench warm.
Powell has shown that he gives all his players in the squad a good run — not just for a minute now and then.
“It is part of our game plan — to grab the matches from our opponents’ hands by sending these fast youngsters on to the field,” said Powell.
To be successful, however, the coach needs the experience of a few veterans in the side, who can back him up.
In this respect South Africa are blessed to have Kyle Brown, Frankie Horne, Cecil Africa and Branco du Preez.
The manner in which Horne, with 53 tournaments behind his back, still travels like a comet across the field, is exemplary.
But all is not hunky dory in the Blitsbokke camp.
Kicking for goal should improve and some of the players tend to hold on to the ball for too long.
•With 56 points, the Blitsbokke now trail New Zealand with a mere two points in the rankings. Fiji are third with 48, England fourth with 40 and Australia fifth with 34.
Due to a favourable draw for the next tournament, the Blitsbokke are well placed to at least reach the quarter-finals again.
Group A: SA, Kenya, Canada, Wales. Group B: New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Scotland. Group C: Samoa, Portugal, England, Uruguay. Group D: Argentina, France, USA, Spain.