New era begins for Senatla

    2017-03-23 10:48

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - Seabelo Senatla wants to be a Springbok. 

    For a man who, at just 24, has achieved so much on the Sevens World Series circuit already, that is the next goal in what is an already impressive career. 

    He is quick, strong and a natural finisher, but Senatla knows that his success in Sevens will count for little, if anything, when he puts on a Stormers jersey in Super Rugby this season. 

    He has one Super Rugby appearance already in 2017 - a 31-minute stint off the bench against the Jaguares at Newlands on March 4 when the Stormers won 32-25 - but this weekend in Singapore he will earn a start against the Sunwolves. 

    Coach Robbie Fleck had backed Cheslin Kolbe and Dillyn Leyds as his wings at the start of the season while Bjorn Basson is also very much in the mix, but with Kolbe now injured Senatla becomes a real option moving forward. 

    It represents the dawn of a new era for the likeable speedster. His Sevens duties are done for the year, and the only thing on his mind now is to succeed for the Stormers and build up a reputation in the XV-man game. 

    While he has shown glimpses of his quality in the limited XV-man rugby he has played over the past few seasons, now is the time for Senatla to show that he possesses the skill-set to succeed at the highest level. 

    Despite his clear natural ability, Fleck says that there needs to be an element of patience when it comes to Senatla's progression.

    "We can't expect miracles from the guy. It's a completely different game," Fleck said from Singapore on Thursday.

    "We all know what a quality rugby player he is but in XVs there is not as much space as there is in Sevens."

    Instead of the focus being on Senatla to make something happen, Fleck emphasised that how successful the Blitzboks' all-time leading try scorer was for the Stormers would be up to his team-mates.

    "He's still the same rugby player. When he's got ball in hand and he's got a bit of space, he's going to be devastating," said Fleck.

    "That's what we expect from him. If we do our job correctly and create space for him and give him good opportunities with ball in hand or to chase kicks, then you'll see the special Seabelo.

    "It's up to us. He's not going to just create something magical out of nothing. It's all 15 players that have to do something.

    "He's a quality player."

    Senatla has been a part of the Stormers since early February, but after playing in four Sevens tournaments this season he needed a break. 

    Now, well rested, he is ready to get the ball rolling on that life-long dream to represent the Boks. 

    "Immediately in training you can see that he's adjusted well," said Fleck.

    "He's a smart player, he does his homework and he's a pure professional. He ticks all those boxes and it's up to the rest of us now to put him in that space so we can see that magic."

    Senatla was a part of the Bok squad that toured Europe on their end-of-year tour in 2014, but he didn't get any game time under Heyneke Meyer. 

    This year, he already looks to be part of the plans after he was named in a Springbok training squad that took part in a three-day camp in Johannesburg in the first week of March. 

    If he stays fit and enjoys an extended run of impressive performances in Super Rugby, that Test debut might come sooner than Senatla thinks. 

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