Neil Powell has achieved what no one else could in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
First, as a player, he helped South Africa to clinch their first ever World Series crown, way back in 2008/09 as the team under the guidance of coach Paul Treu broke new ground for the Blitzboks.
Nine years later, in the 2016/17 season, Powell was the head coach as South Africa won the World Series for a second time in their history, making him the first man to do the double as player and coach.
And earlier this year, in the last match of the last tournament in the 2017/18 season in France, Powell’s troops clinched the HSBC Paris Sevens title that saw them successfully defend their World Series crown.
Powell cannot add to his World Series gold medals as a player anymore, but as a coach there is no reason why the foundations laid in the previous two seasons cannot bring more accolades. Yet, on the eve of the first tournament of the 2018/19 series, the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, the coach is cautiously excited about the season ahead.
“This first tournament is always a tough one,” said Powell.
“You don’t know what other teams have done with regards to preparation or what their level of readiness is. Therefore, the best idea is to just focus on your own effort and how to best implement what you prepared for.”
The Blitzboks have done very well in the last decade or so when contesting the Emirates Trophy and return to The Sevens Stadium outside Dubai as defending champions for a seventh time.
“We have a good record year here indeed and that has helped us to a strong start to the series in recent years,” said Powell.
“We will hoping for more of the same, but it will not come to us, we will have to go out and do the work if we want to be successful.”
As weird as it may sound to the layman, winning is not the thing that drives Powell and his team. Instead, consistency is what Powell will be after, come the opening whistle against Zimbabwe on Friday morning.
“We have been very consistent in the last two seasons and that has contributed to our successes,” said Powell.
“Last year, we only won two of the 10 events and Fiji five, yet we pipped them at the post because we never finished outside of the top four. That is what we will be looking for again this year.”
Powell had one constant in those achievements – Philip Snyman. The Blitzboks captain was a fresh-faced teammate in 2008/09 and in the last two seasons, Snyman was leading the charge on the field. It’s therefore not strange to hear them emphasizing the same values when it comes to the season opener in the Arabian desert.
“We can only control our own efforts,” said Snyman as the team concluded their preparation.
“We need to go out and deliver our best effort. We need to do justice to this proud jersey, ourselves, our families, our fans and make sure that the only way we can get beaten, is by a better effort on the day from someone else and not our lack of effort.”
Snyman holds the tournament and venue dear: “I made my Springbok Sevens debut here and scored my first try here, so there are many good memories. But that doesn’t count for anything as it is a new season with new goals and new standards.”
The Blitzboks face Zimbabwe, Samoa and Argentina in Pool A.
Springbok Sevens fixtures (Friday, 30 November – SA kick-off times and all matches live on SuperSport1):
08h52: vs Zimbabwe
12h36: vs Samoa
17h53: vs Argentina
The Springbok Sevens squad for the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens are:
- Impi Visser (uncapped)
- Philip Snyman (captain – 54 tournaments; 248 matches, 346 points, 63 tries, 16 conversions)
- Ryan Oosthuizen (10 tournaments; 45 matches, 55 points, 11 tries)
- Zain Davids (13 tournaments; 60 matches, 45 points, 9 tries)
- Werner Kok (37 tournaments; 184 matches, 420 points, 84 tries)
- Kyle Brown (65 tournaments; 327 matches, 420 points, 84 tries)
- Branco du Preez (61 tournaments; 305 matches, 1162 points, 82 tries)
- Rosko Specman (26 tournaments; 138 matches, 343 points, 63 tries, 14 conversions)
- Justin Geduld (36 tournaments; 186 matches, 833 points, 86 tries)
- Dewald Human (4 tournaments; 18 matches, 66 points, 8 tries, 13 conversions)
- Siviwe Soyizwapi (18 tournaments; 89 matches, 280 points, 56 tries)
- Muller du Plessis (4 tournaments; 20 matches, 55 points, 11 tries)
- Selvyn Davids* (5 tournaments; 24 matches, 97 points, 13 tries, 16 conversions)
* Replacement Player