Senatla scored a South African record 66 tries in the World Series last season, which is the second-most in history, and his untimely wrist injury was probably the difference between the Blitzboks winning bronze instead of gold at the Rio Olympics.
So it was no surprise when he became the third Springbok Sevens star after Cecil Afrika (2011) and Werner Kok (2015) to be crowned as the Sevens Player of the Year at the World Rugby Awards in London on Sunday night.
The 23-year-old from Welkom beat off the challenge of Fiji’s Osea Kolinisau and Virimi Vakatawa of France for the award.
“Obviously I’m pretty chuffed to have been honoured as the best sevens player for 2016. I think it’s such a wonderful accolade and one that I don’t take lightly. But in the same breath, I’d like to say that it’s not purely on me,” Senatla said.
“I’d like to give so much credit to the guys that I play with, as I believe that the hard work is done way before I get the ball, and I just have the privilege of dotting the ball down. Having the easiest job on the team!
“Credit to them and the management for allowing me to do what I can do. Also, I would like to thank all the family, friends and supporters, as that backing encourages us to push more. I’m really humbled – the reception I get from South Africa and back at home is incredible. Thank you so much for supporting me, and I hope to make you even more proud in future.”
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander also praised Senatla for his award. “Seabelo gave us many reasons to smile during the last Sevens Series, and all of us involved in South African rugby are very proud of this humble and hard-working young man,” said Alexander.
“But rugby is a team sport and I’m sure Seabelo will be the first to give credit to his teammates. The Blitzboks had a great season and we can’t wait for the next series to start, as the challenge will be a great one to take things one step further.”
Senatla missed out on the Blitzboks’ triumph in a warm-up tournament in Namibia at the weekend, but will rejoin the team on Wednesday to prepare for the first round of the 2016/17 World Series in Dubai on December 2-3, which is followed by the Cape Town Sevens a week later.
Senatla is also likely to feature more often for the Stormers in Super Rugby next year in the hope of making the Springbok team.
Other South African award winners were Rasta Rasivhenge (shared Referee Award with Alhambra Nievas from Spain) and former Bok captain Jean de Villiers (International Rugby Players’ Association’s Special Merit Award).
The All Blacks were chosen as the Team of the Year, flyhalf Beauden Barrett was named as the World Player of the Year, while New Zealand mentor Steve Hansen won the Coach award.
Original source: Senatla ‘pretty chuffed’ with world award