Blitzbok coach Neil Powell believes the teething problems his rebuilding squad have experienced are improving the players and himself because they have had to go back to basics.
The Blitzboks missed out on the semifinals in the opening tournament of the 2018/19 HSBC World Sevens Series in Dubai in December and could only place third in Cape Town a week later.
Having won back-to-back titles over the past two seasons while showing remarkable consistency that has yielded seven tournament wins‚ six runners-up places‚ three third and two fourth places‚ ending fifth in Dubai was a surprise.
The team has lost a swathe of key players to 15s and injury‚ which has accelerated the introduction of a slew of academy players to the Blitzboks squad.
They were clearly overwhelmed in Dubai but showed massive improvement a week later in Cape Town.
After the holidays and a lot of hard work at their base in Stellenbosch‚ Powell has been able to do some old school coaching again.
“Rebuilding this team after losing so many players is a good challenge and it also takes me‚ as a coach‚ out of my comfort zone‚” Powell said.
“For the first time in about three years‚ I’ve had to go back and coach some basic detail that for so long‚ we as a group‚ took for granted. Everyone was so familiar with their roles and responsibilities.
“That detail‚ such as running lines‚ or defensive alignment, was usually left to the players because they all knew the system and were so experienced. Now‚ I’ve had to go back to some basics.
“This is the first time in a long time that I have had to coach detail again. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s a challenge for me to adapt to the new players that bring different attributes. I have to adapt to bring out the best in these players.”
One area the Blitzboks have struggled with this season is in terms of their physicality‚ having lost several heavy hitters between seasons.
Powell acknowledged that his team has suffered physically at times in the opening stages of the current campaign‚ but believes that it all ties in with experience and understanding of expectations.
“We have lost some physicality losing Dylan Sage‚ Tim Agaba‚ Ruhan Nel and even Kwagga Smith ... The guys coming in to replace them have the potential to be physical but they’ve been surprised by what it entails.
“Impi Visser is a big‚ strong guy but he now realises he can’t go into contact at 80% some of the time. It has to be 100% all of the time.”
The Blitzboks face France‚ Scotland and Kenya in Pool C at the weekend.