The Springbok Sevens trounced Olympic champions Fiji 26-14 with an intense mix of vigorous defence and deadly attack as they besieged the islanders into mistakes and took their own chances to run in four tries to two.
Senatla, who was picked in the Dubai Dream Team along with Werner Kok, grabbed the final touchdown following a kick ahead by Rosko Specman to finish things off in style, and will look to complete his sevens duties in the same manner at the Cape Town Sevens next weekend before joining the Stormers for Super Rugby.
“It’s quite incredible to play with the guys that I do – they’re quite magical. And as a flyer, that’s all you need… people to put you into space, and we’re playing to a plan. So, hats off to the boys as they always putting me in space and doing the hard work on my inside to make sure that I have space on the outside,” the World Sevens Player of the Year said.
“It’s always nice to get one over Fiji as we knew we had the potential at the Olympics. Not that we are thinking about the Olympics now, because we crossed over that line a long time ago.
“We all know that it’s a whole lot of pressure, especially after winning three or four times in a row at your home tournament. But we take it as it comes – we all know that putting on the Springbok jumper is massive pressure, but we try to make everything internal. We know if we can do all the small things well, everything will blossom for us (in Cape Town).”
Senatla won the World Player award after scoring 66 tries, and starring at the Rio Olympics before a wrist injury picked up in the quarter-final against Australia ruled him out of the rest of the tournament.
Perhaps the hurt of ending with a bronze medal instead of gold inspired the Blitzboks in Dubai, and the 23-year-old speedster is pushing himself further too. “That was a pretty big honour for me, to be the World Player of the Year. But I knew that coming to the new season, nothing that I did (before) was going to help me,” he said.
“For me, it was all about starting over and building the foundation of doing hard work for the team. We are comfortable with being uncomfortable, and it was all about starting again, and not clinging on to what happened last season.”
The Blitzboks were set to arrive in the Mother City on Sunday evening, and have been drawn in a tough Pool A with Australia, USA and Russia for South Africa’s home leg on Saturday and Sunday at the Cape Town Stadium.
Coach Neil Powell says the Dubai triumph over Fiji will help “create the belief that we can beat them on any day”, and added that avoiding injuries will be vital in trying to defend their Cape Town Sevens title.
“Credit to the guys for sticking to the game plan – they implemented exactly what we asked of them – and the result came by itself,” he said. “They can only really produce offloads and be dangerous if they get momentum. We tried to be in their faces and take their space away, and the guys really did that well and almost kept them playing backwards all the time.
“We had quite a bit of success against Fiji last season as well, beating them three times and losing twice. It’s key for us to keep putting one over Fiji and create the belief that we can beat them on any day and at any time.
“(But) Nothing that we did in this (Dubai) tournament will help us in Cape Town. We need to put down the foundation again and build the momentum, and hopefully finish it off on day two. And we hope to go through that tournament without injuries, like we did here.”
Cape Town Sevens Draw
Pool A: South Africa, Australia, USA, Russia
Pool B: Fiji, France, Kenya, Japan
Pool C: England, New Zealand, Argentina, Canada
Pool D: Wales, Scotland, Samoa, Uganda
Dubai Dream Team
Ruaridh McConnochie (England), Werner Kok (South Africa), Setareki Bituniyata (Fiji), Jerry Tuwai (Fiji), Ethan Davies (Wales), Seabelo Senatla (South Africa), Osea Kolinisau (Fiji).
Original source: Senatla takes Cape Town Sevens pressure in his stride