Powell happy to get Blitzbok selection headache

09 April 2018 - 13:04
By Craig Ray
South Africa's Selvyn Davids runs to score a try against Fiji at the Hong Kong Sevens.
Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip South Africa's Selvyn Davids runs to score a try against Fiji at the Hong Kong Sevens.

Blitzbok coach Neil Powell admitted that the ‘second string’ squad that did duty in Hong Kong over the past weekend has given him a selection headache for the remainder of the 2017/18 World Sevens Series campaign.

South Africa sent an inexperienced squad to Hong Kong with five new caps while the ‘first team’ flew to Australia to prepare for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

The youthful Blitzboks earned a bronze medal and 17 log points to retain South Africa’s lead at the top of the standings with three World Series events in Singapore‚ Paris and London to come.

They won five out of six games‚ only losing to eventual winners Fiji by 26-24 in a compelling semi-final‚ before going on to beat New Zealand 29-7 for third place.

Powell didn’t travel to Hong Kong and instead the squad was lead by Academy coach Marius Schoeman.

“If we’re honest those youngsters in Hong Kong raised the bar for the entire Blitzbok programme‚” Powell said from the Gold Coast.

“It’s great if there is healthy competition in the system and we need guys to push for places to get the best out of everybody.

“Sometimes when you have a lot of senior guys in the squad‚ they can get into a comfort zone.

"So it’s good that the Academy guys are pushing for places because it will make the entire system stronger.”

The Blitzboks saw their World Series lead cut from eight points to three over Fiji‚ with the islanders winning their third tournament of the current season.

But it could have been so much worse had the youthful Blitzboks not played as well as they did‚ which started by winning their Pool with victories over South Korea‚ Scotland and England.

Powell watched the entire event on TV from Australia and found it more stressful than being in the heat of battle.

“It was far more nerve-wracking watching on TV than sitting on the side of the field‚” Powell said.

“I have to give Shoes (Marius Schoeman) and the coaching team a lot of credit for the way they handled the squad and led them through the biggest tournament on the circuit.

“The most positive thing for me was that the team delivered six consistent performances. There wasn’t one game where they were off the pace.

“They almost beat a full strength Fiji‚ they beat a full strength Scotland and also beat a NZ team that had beaten a full strength USA.

“There were a lot of positives to take out of the tournament and for all those players they had valuable game time in a huge event.

"Many of them have put their hands up and showed that they want to be in the system in the future.”