Hey Boks, give Sevens a go!

Devin Hermanus

If the drought-hit Western Cape had a drop to spare, the Blitzboks could walk on water.

The reigning World Sevens Series champions arrived home for this weekend’s Cape Town Sevens tournament after clinching last week’s Dubai tournament – the second time in as many years.

Also, the cross-code success of Kwagga Smith (Lions), Seabelo Senatla (Stormers and Western Province) and Werner Kok (WP) has seen a growing interest in SA Sevens stars from 15-man coaches.

In 2017, Smith’s Super Rugby performances, plus a Man-of-the-Match turn for the Barbarians against the All Blacks last month, have earned him a fan club that never misses an opportunity to slam his Springbok exclusion.

Blitzboks stalwarts Cecil Afrika, Chris Dry and Rosko Specman joined the Cheetahs on short-term deals while Ruhan Nel helped WP lift the 2017 Currie Cup trophy, starring for the Streeptruie at inside and outside centre, as well as fullback and wing.

So, if the Blitzboks continue to improve as they seamlessly switch between codes, why aren’t more players with the potential to switch from 15s to Sevens doing the same?

Stints with the Blitzboks could potentially revive the careers of 2017 Bok moegoes Damian de Allende, Oupa Mohoje and Raymond Rhule.

Rhule has the makings of a Blitzbok try-scoring machine like Senatla, but the Cheetahs wing was the worst defender in Super Rugby this year and he missed 9 tackles against the All Blacks in Albany. Sevens would force him to remedy his one-on-one tackling, reading of the attack, and knowing when to rush out of defensive position to make a tackle.

Stormers centre De Allende’s running lines, eye for a gap and deceptive pace, as well as his strong ball-carrying and strong ‘D’, were what won him the SA Super Rugby Player of 2015 award, a Bok call-up and a ticket to the World Cup.

Later that year, he and Mohoje were selected by Blitzboks coach Neil Powell. De Allende declined the invitation to concentrate on 15s, while injury sidelined Oupa.  De Allende would benefit from playing the abbreviated code, where spatial awareness, how to corner a defender and choosing the right angle of approach with ball-in-hand are hallmarks of a dangerous Sevens attacker.

Mohoje will never send shivers down the spines of defenders, à la former Bok blindside bruisers Juan Smith and Willem Alberts, but what the Cheetahs flank lacks in physicality he makes up for with speed, athleticism and lineout prowess, all of which makes him a good fit for the Blitzboks.

His speed to the breakdown would help South Africa secure or prevent quick ball at the rucks, and ball-playing forwards like Mohoje and Stormers flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who has joined the Blitzbokke until the start of Super Rugby’s 2018 preseason, could stretch their legs on the Sevens circuit and possibly reinvent themselves as barnstorming centres or hulking wings.

Bok legend Bryan Habana was briefly part of the Blitzboks set-up in 2016, while fellow 15-man hot-steppers Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe won bronze at Sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio.

It’s time that more Bok and Super Rugby household names roll the dice on Sevens.

Devin Hermanus works in the SA media industry, does CrossFit to cope with anger issues, and struggles to kick-start a bicycle. Follow him on Twitter: @DevinMyles11

FRESH TAKE is an initiative to identify, feature and develop talented rugby writers who are not yet part of the mainstream media.

If that sounds like you, send us a sample of a story you’d like to write to info@alloutrugby.com

- Devin Hermanus

Let's chat

  • Barry Smith

    Absolutely! 7’s improves player understanding of depth & space, rather than the more blunt approach adopted by our 15’s code. Is this not the change in backline style that all are calling for?

  • Rant

    Agree 100%. Rieko Ioane was in the NZ Seven’s team first, and he scored 190 points in 9 comps. Now look at him. The development sevens gives a player is undeniable (except of course by Zelim Nel). And certainly the players Devin mentions above could all benefit hugely by a stint in 7’s. Specially Rhule, he has pace and is quite a strong guy, he just needs to learn to not be lazy and to tackle!

  • Greg Stewart

    Thanks Devin for a fresh take on the 7’s player skills. These players could well benefit from a stint in 7’s and should, I believe, be a given for any player who wants to be a Springbok back liner.

    • Devin Hermanus

      Appreciate the feedback.

  • Wesley

    First Zelim with a terrible clickbaity and insulting article on 7s, now Devin comes through with a well thought out flyer. Thanks Devin! And please, if you see Zelim and his buddy Mike, just school them a little bit on rugby. For all our sake please.

    • Mike S

      The results spoke. The Blitzies are not Boks. They were run over by a couple of very fast Mack trucks. Nobody said that there is no benefit for especially loose forwards and backs to play some sevens to improve their appreciation of space and running lines. The article was about whether the current “super athletes” in the Blitzbok side are deserving of a run in the 15’s Bok side. Clearly, they are not. You really need to improve your reading skills , Wesley. It will help you to understand complicated arguments and people.

      • Wesley

        What results? The 1 loss in the sea of wins the past few 7s events? You cant win them all. That’s sport. And clearly some of them do deserve a run, we just don’t have the guts to choose them, always choosing someone to “counter” the opposition players, instead of developing a gameplan that fits us, amplifying our strengths and minimizing our weaknesses. That’s what Powell obviously does, and Toetie does not, seemingly to your praises. Rugby has more to do with brains, and obviously those with little feel threatened by those wanting to use theirs.

    • Devin Hermanus

      Will pass your sentiments along. Cheers.

  • Louis

    Neil Powell. Enough said.

  • Peter

    Well said Devin Hermanus….totally agree with you….problem is…most of Boks are so rubbish…Neil Powell wouldnt dare choose them….theyd have to start at the Developement Team and work much harder than they do for Boks to even get a look in!!!!

  • humblepie

    Dear Zelim,
    see if you can still get a ticket to the Cape Town 7s tournament for your pal Toetie. It will be great for him to see how a capacity crowd looks like.

  • Chris Mouton

    I agree 100%. In fact, I think that the majority of the Springbok backline could benefit with some 7’s skills. It teaches you the skills on how to attack and defend one-on-one as well as to utilize and create space. Something our Bok backline needs desperately. This doesn’t mean that I think that all Bok backline players should be in the 7’s team, but they should definitely incorporate the training techniques. Have 7’s sessions at least twice a week.

  • Mike S

    The results spoke. The Blitzies are not Boks. They were run over by a couple of very fast Mack trucks. Nobody said that there is no benefit for especially loose forwards and backs to play some sevens to improve their appreciation of space and running lines. The article was about whether the current “super athletes” in the Blitzbok side are deserving of a run in the 15’s Bok side. Clearly, they are not. You really need to improve your reading skills , Wesley. It will help you to understand complicated arguments and people.

Comments are closed.