Kankowski’s final push for Blitzbokke spot

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But the Springbok Sevens still have a chance to force their way into the final squad for Rio in the last two World Sevens Series tournaments in Paris and London.

The Blitzboks are getting ready for Friday’s opener at the Stade Jean Bouin against arch-rivals England (9.12pm), followed on Saturday by clashes against Brazil (12.45pm) and Australia (4.15pm).

But coach Neil Powell says the door is still open for players to make late bids for the Olympic squad, while also trying to catch log leaders Fiji, who are eight points ahead of South Africa.

“The guys have two opportunities here in that they can win the series, but also push hard for a spot in the final Olympic squad. I am expecting the players to really push hard this week. We have seen a team like New Zealand travelling with a strong squad of 16 players to the last two tournaments, which will probably be like the final trials for the Olympics, and we are not much different,” Powell said.

“Everybody’s still got an opportunity to make the Olympics – there are no definite spots yet – and we are looking to give everybody opportunities to put their hands up.”

One man who needs to make a big statement at the Paris Sevens is former Sharks and Springbok No 8 Ryan Kankowski. Having returned from Japanese club rugby, Kankowski made a slow start to life back in the sevens game, having last played in the shorter format in 2006.

But the 20-Test loose forward is facing serious competition for a spot in the final 12-man group for Rio, where even veteran Frankie Horne is set to put in a late bid at the London Sevens next weekend after a long-term ankle injury saw him miss the entire 2016 so far.

“Frankie worked hard to get back on to the field, and he starts training this week. We need him to get through a full week of training. We feel that if he gets through this week, he will definitely get his chance in London and then Rome later in June,” Powell said.

But with the World Series title still up for grabs, the Blitzboks will want to gain revenge on England in their Paris opening on Friday night. The English side stunned the South Africans 21-14 in their first match in Hong Kong, and Powell’s team ended up losing 12-7 to New Zealand in the Cup semi-finals.

“We have Rio to consider, but we need to do well in Paris first and that starts with the match against England,” the coach said. “England and Australia have beaten us this year and with the event stretched over three days, it will be a good prep for the Olympic Games, as that schedule is also over a three-day period.

“We were caught cold in Hong Kong recently in similar circumstances, when England outplayed us on the first day. We don’t want to fall in the same trap again. Paris is important with regards to the seeding for Rio and we are aiming to finish in the top two on the overall standings.”

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

Independent Media

Original source: Kankowski’s final push for Blitzbokke spot

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