Blitzbokke chasing World, Rio glory


But, there is the not-so-small matter of the Rio Olympic Games around the corner and Powell is looking to find his best men for that event as well. It is one of the reasons why he’ll make a good number of changes to the squad that will do duty in Paris this weekend for next week’s final stop in London.

The Blitzbokke (139 points) are eight points off leaders Fiji, while New Zealand are third, on 135.

It’s been an up-and-down year for the South African Sevens team, but they’ll be hoping to end the series strongly to give themselves a timely boost ahead of the Olympics.

The player with the most to gain this weekend and next week in London, is former Springbok No 8 Ryan Kankowski.

The skilful and speedy former Sharks man signed on to play only Sevens rugby this year, but injuries and a string of more experienced players in the queue in front of him, has limited his time on the field. He’ll, however, be desperate to show he should be one of Powell’s chosen men for the Olympics.

Another player who’ll be keen to make his mark is Francois Hougaard, who’s also largely focused on the Sevens game this year. He’s played more often than Kankowski, but will still have to perform extremely well if he’s to get a ticket to Brazil.

The team, who are in Pool C with England, Brazil and Australia this weekend, will be captained by Philip Snyman, with Kyle Brown relieved of his duties.

“Taking over the captaincy role from Kyle is a nice challenge,” said Snyman. “We work well together, so I am looking forward to the added responsibility. We have to focus on Paris for now. Game one against England is the big focus. We know what we do best and will back our structures. That will bring results, I believe.”

The squad suffered a minor hiccup on Wednesday when the experienced Justin Geduld withdrew from the team after tweaking a hamstring in training. Geduld has returned home for further treatment, with Stephan Dippenaar replacing him in the squad for the Paris event.

With so much at stake - a potential World Sevens Series title and the chance of going to the Olympics - there’s plenty for a number of players over the next two weekends to play for. Powell said they should enjoy the occasion and make the most of their opportunities.

“It is a difficult two weeks coming up,” said the coach. “It is the last two tournaments of a long season and we haven’t really performed to our full potential up to now.

“With the focus shifting to the Olympics after the last tournament we certainly want to finish the series with a few good performances.”

The Springbok Sevens squad: Ryan Kankowski, Philip Snyman (capt), Tim Agaba, Kwagga Smith, Francois Hougaard, Kyle Brown, Dylan Sage, Rosko Specman, Stephan Dippenaar, Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel - The Star

Original source: Blitzbokke chasing World, Rio glory