Sevens

Tim Agaba chats to Sport24

2016-12-02 14:42
Tim Agaba

Cape Town - Sevens powerhouse TIM AGABA discusses his experiences at the Rio Olympics, why the Blitzboks are tired of second place and casts an eye over the opening leg of the World Series in Dubai from Friday.

Sport24 asked: You signed a full-time SA Rugby Sevens contract last year. Has it been a wild ride?

Tim Agaba: For sure. My journey in Sevens has been interesting and has quite surprised me actually. I joined the national Sevens set-up around this time last year and I featured in a few tournaments for the SA Academy side which was fun. To be honest, I thought that was as far as it would go for me in the 7-man game but I ended up getting called up rather early on by the Blitzboks for the Sydney tournament and have pretty much played ever since for the side. I’m very appreciative of the opportunities I have been afforded and hopefully I can enjoy an equally successful 2016-17 World Series campaign upon my return from injury. My number one plan is to get healthy again - Agaba is recovering from ankle surgery - and be eligible for selection as soon as possible. I will be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks. It’s far from ideal missing the season-openers in Dubai and Cape Town but injuries are one of the uncontrollables in the game and can happen to anyone at any time. An injury setback presents an opportunity for a comeback and I’m determined to return even stronger.

Sport24 asked: Why is Sevens such a challenging sport and have you seen growth in your game?

Tim Agaba: My all-round game has definitely developed over the last year. In my book, perfection isn’t a destination but rather a journey. As a player, you can never stop working and improving in all areas. While you can never truly perfect any area of your game, I apply myself as much as possible in every department in order to maximize my potential. I’m prepared to do whatever is needed for the side and am happy to be part of the set-up. Sevens is very demanding on the mind and body and tests you on all levels. It certainly ticks all the boxes in terms of being one of the most gruelling sports.  Sevens is very specific to training the individual and each player works on certain areas of development, whereas the 15-man game offers more of a group dynamic whereby the forwards and backs train separately. I reckon Mixed Martial Arts would be the world’s toughest sport but Sevens is certainly right up there. Seven minutes of play each half often ends up feeling like three hours! You have to have the full package and be able to do everything in order to be successful in Sevens. The bottom line is that you adapt or die. Some 15-man players who have failed to grasp the concept of Sevens have subsequently fallen by the wayside. In my opinion, training is 10 times harder than a match situation. It’s one thing to go through training and another to do well in it. I would say the demands of training is what most gets to players who are new to the system. Personally speaking, in the beginning it was challenging to make the step up from 15s to 7s because the on-field specifics and fitness requirement are more demanding in the abbreviated version of the game. I had to adjust to that over time and put in plenty of hard graft in order to achieve a sustained level of performance.

Sport24 asked: Do you feel Sevens has moved from a novelty to a respectable, meaningful sport?

Tim Agaba: Yes, and now that Sevens is an Olympic sport I expect the game to grow vastly. The countries that we consider small Sevens teams are going to develop very quickly and I foresee the pecking order changing somewhat over the next few years, as teams like the USA, for instance, develop and really concentrate on rugby. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. The Rio Olympics has taken Sevens to another level and is undoubtedly the highlight of my professional playing career thus far. It was a life-changing experience for me because it opened up my eyes to bigger things.  I appreciate the fact that I was fortunate enough to participate at the Olympics. It was a special time for me and I will remember the experience for the rest of my life. Winning a bronze medal was a bonus. Of course we would have preferred to win gold but any Olympic medal is a great achievement in and of itself. Fiji must be congratulated for claiming the World Series title and Olympic gold. They completely deserve everything that they have achieved and are a brilliant side. Much like the All Blacks in the 15-man game, Fiji set the benchmark. However, we have to back ourselves when we come up against them and everyone agrees that finishing second more than once is becoming redundant. We hope to improve on that front and this season holds that in hand.

Sport24 asked: Kyle Brown has handed the captaincy to Philip Snyman. What effect will it have?

Tim Agaba: I believe the team will continue to function well because Kyle and Phil are pretty much the same in terms of leadership style. I can’t really differentiate between the two because they possess the same mindset and really understand the type of game we are trying to play and the system we are aiming to implement. Applause to Kyle for stepping down and handing over the reins to Philip, who was pretty much the obvious choice because he has captained the team a few times before. I believe Phil we do a great job and will commit himself fully to the team cause. Kyle has been a terrific Blitzbok captain. He has been around for a long time and will go down as one of the legends of Sevens when he retires. I believe part of Kyle’s decision to call time on his captaincy career was so that fresh ideas can be brought to the role. He will instead settle into a more supportive role to the younger leaders in the squad. There is a strong accent on implementing a youthful structure and breeding new players who can step into the breach if and when required. The SA Academy side is a strong unit and the plan is to get some youngsters in that are eligible for selection come the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. My message to the SA Academy players is: Stay on your toes and hone your craft because an opportunity to play for Blitzboks may present itself sooner than expected. In order to progress to the Blitzboks you must apply yourself, learn quickly and work hard.

Sport24 asked: How would you assess South Africa’s chances of claiming a fifth title in Dubai?

Tim Agaba: Our team is strong and we have enjoyed continuity heading into the first tournament of the new season. We boast pretty much the same playing personnel in the side from the Rio Olympics which breeds confidence and cohesion. If we can execute our game plan over the next two days, I believe we will be very successful. (South Africa opened their campaign with a resounding 46-0 win over Uganda). Uganda is one team I would have wanted to play against - Agaba was born in Uganda - because it’s my original home and heritage. We also come up against Scotland and USA in Pool B later on Friday. While they are competitive outfits - Scotland surprised USA in their pool match - if we are able to execute the plans we have put in place then we should be successful against them. We treat every team with the same amount of respect and consider them to be on an equal level. We don’t regard any of our opponents as superior or inferior to us. We will aim to implement our strategies and the trick is not to really worry too much about other teams. We pride ourselves on our defence but, on an attacking front, we are fortunate to possess a vast array of players in our arsenal that boast a ridiculous amount of skill and speed. Seabelo Senatla is one such example. He is a great player and was definitely deserving of the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year award. He scored 66 tries for South Africa last term and underlined that there is simply no substitute for pace.

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Read more on:    sevens  |  tim agaba  |  rugby
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