Commonwealth Games

Blitzbokke eye Olympic spot

2014-07-29 22:00
Neil Powell (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The Springbok Sevens team will soon start the next phase in their pursuit of Olympic silverware after they stunned the New Zealand team in the final at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the weekend.

The South African team made history by beating the All Blacks for the first time since Rugby Sevens were introduced as one of the sporting codes in 1998.

"It is an important tournament win for us as a Springbok Sevens team. This will mean a lot for us going into the next season and going into the Olympics in 2016," Blitzbokke coach Neil Powell said at the team's arrival in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"It is always great to beat the All Blacks in a final and it was a tough one, the guys really worked hard to win that one. Credit to my boys.

"It is an honour and a privilege to represent your country and to win in the Commonwealth games is special and means a lot to us."

The South African team captured the imagination as they played with unbridled vigour throughout the campaign.

The Springbok Sevens’ previous best attempts were two bronze medals.

They finished the first match day unbeaten after victories over the Cooks Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and also Kenya, before they defeated hosts Scotland 35-12 in the quarterfinals and Samoa 35-7 in the semi-finals.

The Blitzbokke left the best for last as they claimed a memorable 17-12 victory over the four times champions New Zealand in front of a capacity crowd at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.

The team's focus will now shift to the Sevens World Series where 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualification will be up for grabs.

The top four teams at the end of the series will automatically qualify for the 12 spots available for men and women at the global showpiece in South America.

"We will have a bit of a break for one or two weeks and then we will start to prepare for the new season starting in middle October," he said.

"It is our qualifications season, so we need to end in the top four. We need to qualify first before we can start talking about the Olympic Games."

In his maiden season in charge of the Springbok Sevens, Powell coached the side to second place on the Sevens World Series where they featured in five consecutive Cup Finals and winning the tournaments in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas.

On the perennial question of whether players from 15-a-side rugby union would make the cut for the Olympics, Powell said there were some players he had in mind.

However, specialist players of the abbreviated version of the game had the advantage of being schooled in what was required to survive in Sevens.

"What we aim to achieve is to build a team that is as close as possible to the 2016 Olympics team," Powell said.

"We will slowly but surely start to bring in players like Warren Whiteley and Cornal Hendricks and get them in next season in one or two of the tournaments.

"The guys that are in the system are in pole position to make that team to Rio so they need to keep on fighting and improving their individual skills and as a team.

"There are definitely one or two guys that we are targeting and with the help of the unions and SA Rugby we hope to bring some 15s guys that we hope can add to the team."

Whiteley and Hendricks were drafted into the team from their 15-man unions -- Golden Lions and Free State respectively -- for their Games campaign and played their part with aplomb.

The Springbok Sevens team will again assemble at their base in Stellenbosch on Monday to start preparations for the next Sevens World Series.

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