Make us proud Blitzbokke!

2011-12-02 09:51

JJ Harmse

South Africa have done it before and will again be real contenders to do so in the 2011/12 season, but it is clear that the World Sevens Series will become harder and harder to win.

I am currently at the Emirates Airlines tournament in Dubai where Paul Treu and his men will try and win their fourth title and it is very clear for all to see how important this version of the game has become.

There can be no doubt that the introduction of Sevens rugby into the Olympic Games from 2016 has been the main reason for this new attitude among elite countries.

Sevens was a bit of a black sheep in South African rugby for a long time, but a lot of progress has been made in this regard, especially after Treu became coach in 2004.

Having played in the era where the Sevens team was considered an 'evil necessity', Treu made sure that players under him did not suffer the same fate.

Today we have a professional set-up in Stellenbosch, centrally contracted players and even some dual-code contracted players, showing the progress Treu has made in his relationships with XVs coaches and administrators.

Someone like William Small-Smith for example, has a Sevens contract with Treu and a XVs contract with the Blue Bulls. Instead of fighting for his services, there is great communication between the two employers and Small-Smith and SA Rugby are the real benefactors.

There are other similar examples, with the idea that come 2016, Treu will be able to use the likes of Small-Smith, Paul Jordaan and others should he decide to pick them for his squad travelling to the Olympics.

In a way, the Springbok Sevens team was way ahead of others on the circuit, but is it clear that other countries are now catching up. Countries like Wales, Scotland, England and New Zealand all have a core of contracted Sevens players now and as recently as yesterday the USA Olympic body announced that they will be contracting 23 Sevens players.

Those players will be based at their Olympic training venue in Colorado Springs and will have access to all the medical, scientific and other resources of this powerhouse in world sport.

The challenge for the USA will be to find the best athletes of course, as many currently play other sports and not rugby, but it is clear that this call can dramatically improve the standards of the USA team.

Other ‘minnows’ in rugby, like Canada, China and Russia all have massive Olympic programmes and will no doubt follow the USA's example.

This, of course, will improve the standard of those countries and in turn the standard of the Sevens series overall.

The IRB announced on Thursday that they are expanding the series again and in 2012/13 we will have tournaments in Australia, South America, Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Japan, Scotland and England.

Argentina are favourites to get the nod to host the South American leg with Chile and Uruguay other options.

In the bigger picture, it is clear that Sevens will continue to expand and get more attention as 2016 draws closer.

We are lucky to have a solid programme in place already and as the Sevens Boks showed in the Commonwealth Games last year, can be a serious medal contender for the country in the future.

For now though, Treu and his team needs to bring some relief to South African rugby fans by winning either here in the Arabian Desert or next week in Port Elizabeth, when the World Series comes to the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium for the first time.

Our Baby Boks failed at the Junior World Cup and our Springboks failed in New Zealand. This leaves the Sevens Boks to produce something of note.
Good luck to them. Make us proud boys!

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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