Johannesburg - The Springbok Sevens side were dealt a massive blow when it was revealed that national 15s players Warren Whiteley and Damian de Allende had both withdrawn from the side to rather concentrate on 15s rugby.
According to SuperSport.com, both Whiteley and De Allende informed coach Neil Powell of the decision this past week and said they wanted to concentrate on making Allister Coetzee’s side for the upcoming three-Test series against Ireland in June.
While De Allende had concerns about his fitness after coming back from a long-term injury picked up in Japan in the off-season, Whiteley’s decision was way more difficult, having to decide between leading the Lions in their breakout season in Super Rugby or taking the one-time chance of making the Olympic squad.
Whiteley’s position is unique as he is the heart and soul of the Lions team that currently leads the Africa Conference 2 and certainly is the player that will be felt the most if he had to leave the team mid-season.
Both players needed to make a decision before the team to the London and Paris Sevens is named later this week, and needed to play in the two legs if they were to be considered for the Rio Olympics.
But other than that, coach Powell will name his team for a training camp with other Olympic hopefuls in June, meaning such a commitment would mean they would lose their chance of playing for the Bok 15s as well. And with the fact that Super Rugby’s final clashes with the Olympics, it would mean that it would affect any chance in the playoffs as well.
“Unfortunately for us, both Damian and Warren withdrew from the Olympics,” Powell told Supersport.com.
“Both of them really want to focus on their 15s career and hope to make the side to play against Ireland in June.”
The Bok Sevens coach said it was a blow for the side, but that they had enough players of quality to cover the positions both were aiming for.
“It is a bit of a blow for us, but I am still confident that we have more than enough players to cover the positions that Warren and Damian played in and obviously they still had to come in and prove they could play Sevens.
“Both of them would have played in the forwards, and I am still happy with the forwards we have for those tournaments. The team we have will be strong enough to take a good team to Rio.”
There is a likelihood that few other 15s players will be considered, other than those who have already played for the team this season in the HSBC World Sevens Series, where the Blitzboks are currently lying fourth.
Read the story on SuperSport.com