Powell relishing Olympic challenge

2016-08-05 16:30
Neil Powell (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - South Africa Sevens head coach Neil Powell is eager for his team to embrace the challenge of competing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

After finishing second, behind Fiji in World Rugby's 2015/16 Sevens Series, the Blitzbokke will be be going for gold.

“Sevens is a lot quicker and a lot more intense (than 15-a-side rugby),” Powell told the Rio 2016 website.

“Someone summed up sevens perfectly by saying it’s human chess, where you have to figure out their strategies and you have obviously a strategy to try and beat them.”

In selecting his 12-man squad for Rio, Powell left out 15-a-side star and 2007 Rugby World Cup winner Bryan Habana, who played at two Sevens Series events this season with the aim of making the Olympics.

“I can tell you it wasn’t easy,” said Powell.

“I could have picked three different teams and all would have been very competitive, but unfortunately‚ only 12 can go.”

The Blitzbokke have picked up the pace of their Olympic preparations in the last few weeks, organising invitational tournaments on home soil to ensure the players hit peak form in time for the pool phase at Rio 2016, where they will face a tough test against France, Australia and Spain.

“For us for the season, it was important to finish either first or second,” added Powell.

“We knew that Pool C is going to be a tough pool… with four top circuit teams. Playing France first is going to be a tough one. With France, you never know what you’re going to get. If they pitch up on the day, then you’ll probably get the best team in the world.”

“Although we have a good track record against Australia this year – we’ve played them eight times, beat them six times, lost two times - nothing is a given out there. You still have to respect every single opponent you play against, even Spain, that we’re going to play in the second game of the tournament.

“It’s going to be different. One-off tournaments are different. They’re will put everything they have into every single game they will play, and you must make sure that you are 100-percent ready for those Games and that you’ve done your homework on those different opponents.”

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