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
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