South Africa coach Neil Powell takes pride in team’s progress

By Michael Hudson

South Africa Sevens head coach Neil Powell said it was “hugely satisfying” to witness the progress his players have made since the start of the 2018-19 HSBC World Sevens Series.

The Blitzboks started the campaign with an inexperienced squad after they lost a number of their veterans. Some left to pursue a career in 15s while others were sidelined by injury. And while their performances may at times have been inconsistent, the squad have grown in strength and have won two tournaments.

Powell is particularly delighted with the progress of young players such as Kurt-Lee Arendse and Angelo Davids. Arendse has impressed since he made his debut in Hong Kong and one of his standout performances was against Canada in the Singapore Sevens when he scored two tries with incredible speed. Angelo Davids has also put in solid performances whenever called upon.

“It’s been hugely satisfying to see the growth of the team and of the individuals. We never wavered in our belief that the longer the season went on‚ the better we would become,” Powell told TimesLive.

“To see the growth of players such as Angelo Davids and Kurt-Lee Arendse‚ and even guys that have been in the system a little longer like Zain Davids‚ has been immensely satisfying.

“The team has also become tighter as a squad. There was a little transitional period where the remaining senior guys had to accept these news guys and vice versa. The new players needed to understand where they stood.”

Powell also realises his team are far from the finished product and is planning to build for the future.

The Blitzboks have cemented their fourth place in the world series standings after their Singapore Sevens triumph which puts them 14 points clear of fifth-placed England. With only two tournaments remaining, only a drastic change in fortunes will see the Blitzboks not finish in the top four. The top four teams at the end of the world series gain automatic qualification to the 2020 summer Olympics.

South Africa have 121 points after eight tournaments. The USA top the standings on 145 points and Fiji (142) and Newzealand (130) complete the top three.

The Blitzboks will be in action next in May’s London Sevens and have been drawn against Argentina, Canada and Japan in Pool A.

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