Experienced Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell, the man who led South Africa to an Olympic bronze medal in Rio earlier this year, has been reappointed with the Blitzboks for a fourth season.
‘Neil is highly sought-after on the international sevens circuit and we’re very grateful and excited that he will remain at the helm of the Blitzboks for a further four years,’ said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
‘The Springbok Sevens have consistently been one of the top teams on the circuit in the last couple of seasons and we know Neil and his team are headed in the right direction. All of us are looking forward at how they tackle the challenges of the new season.’
Powell said: ‘It’s a massive privilege and honour for me to coach the Springbok Sevens team as I’m passionate about the game and our country. I can’t wait to get stuck in as we aim to raise the bar even further this season.’
Meanwhile, the Springbok Sevens squad started their preparations for the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Stellenbosch earlier this week, keen to deliver another impressive year of performance on the world stage.
The South Africans took overall second place in the 2015/16 series that ended in June, having qualified for all 10 quarter-finals, eight semi-finals and four finals (winning one). They then travelled to the Olympic Games in Rio in August, where they won a bronze medal.
Powell said it is good to see the squad looking refreshed and eager to tackle the new season. ‘The guys needed the break and it is good to see them back here. They are keen to get going, but this will not be an easy couple of weeks. We are going to work hard and there is lots of hard work to be done,’ Powell said.
‘The main focus areas we want to work on will be strength, conditioning and fitness. After that we will start looking at skills training and game plans. We then have a warm-up tournament in Namibia (November) and then the season kicks off proper in Dubai and Cape Town.’
The 10-tournament series kicks off in Dubai on 2 December. South Africa is seeded second for the tournament and will play USA, Scotland and Uganda in pool B. The Dubai tournament will be followed by the HSBC Cape Town Sevens on 10-11 December.
Meanwhile, in a move that will align the annual HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with the Olympic Games, World Rugby has also announced an exciting restructuring of the final competition day, hoping for greater meaning for teams and fans. It will now feature gold, silver and bronze medals for the first time.
The traditional Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield format will be replaced by two competitions. The top two teams in each pool will progress to the Cup competition and the chance to win a gold medal, while lower ranked teams will contest a new Challenge Trophy competition.
The restructure means that each series event will climax with the 13th-place positional play-off, followed by the Challenge Trophy (ninth place), the fifth place play-off, bronze medal match and the gold medal match (Cup winners). The number of matches the teams play across each event remains the same, as does the points distribution.