Can Sonny Bill stop Cheslin?


That was the question posed by Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell this week after the All Blacks superstar was included in the New Zealand Sevens squad for the next two World Rugby Sevens Series events in Wellington on January 30-31 and Sydney the following weekend (February 6-7).

The two-times Rugby World Cup winner has been drafted into the Sevens code to bolster the Kiwis’ chances of grabbing an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in August.

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Renowned for his incredible offloading skills in 15-man rugby, Williams will made his Sevens debut in Wellington, and has spoken about how tough the training has been in preparing to play in the shorter format for the first time.

That is an aspect the Blitzbokke will hope to exploit at the Westpac Stadium, as they will face the hosts in the last match of Pool A on day one of the Wellington tournament.

“I think Sevens is more a team sport than anything else – one player can’t make the team the best in the world. Although he (Williams) might bring something on attack, we will have to see what he’s got on defence, because that’s the most important part of Sevens,” Powell said in Stellenbosch this week after naming the South African 12-man squad.

“Everybody can attack and everybody can run with the ball and in space – but the difficult thing is to defend against a guy like Cheslin when he runs at you. Or Justin Geduld, or Seabelo Senatla.

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“So, it will be interesting to see how he goes, especially with the fitness and intensity of the game – to see how those 15s stars will adapt to the intensity.”

The Sevens Boks don’t have a good record in Wellington, having last won the New Zealand leg in 2002. But after hitting back from a poor Dubai tournament to win the Cup at the Cape Town Stadium in December, Powell will be hoping for a better outcome, even without injured stars such as captain Kyle Brown and Cecil Afrika.

“We were successful there very long ago – I was part of the team and Paul Treu was captain of the side in 2002! But we have improved in the last two years, as we came second (2014) and third (2015),” Powell said. “It’s great test and challenge, and we want to test ourselves against the best. We spoke about it and want to measure ourselves in Wellington against New Zealand and Fiji.”



Wellington Draw

Pool A: South Africa, New Zealand, Scotland, Russia

Pool B: Argentina, Fiji, Wales, Japan

Pool C: France, USA, England, Samoa

Pool D: Kenya, Australia, Canada, Portugal

Blitzbokke Pool A Fixtures (SA Times)

Saturday, January 30

12.42am: Scotland, 3.44am: Russia, 7.30am: New Zealand.

Original source: Can Sonny Bill stop Cheslin?