Sevens

Blitzboks coach Powell still has Olympic success firmly in sight

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Blitzboks coach Neil Powell. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images)
Blitzboks coach Neil Powell. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images)

The importance of player welfare remains a priority, which is why Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has endorsed the decision by World Rugby to move the World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Singapore and Hong Kong next year, despite the fact that it will leave teams short on match time before the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.

World Rugby announced their decision to reschedule the Singapore and Hong Kong tournaments from their original dates in April, to 29-30 October and 5-7 November 2021 respectively, with Hong Kong acting as the World Rugby Sevens Series finale.

A further update on contingency scheduling for the 2021 World Rugby Sevens Series will be provided early in the new year, with a return to a full competition schedule anticipated for the 2022 edition.

Powell admitted that he was disappointed with the news, which he sees as a massive blow to the 2020/21 World Rugby Sevens Series.

"This will leave us, as well as the other teams participating in the Olympics in Tokyo, short of game time, so in that regard, this was disappointing to hear," Powell said in a media statement.

"It means that, apart from some regional tournaments, we will probably have one or maybe two official tournaments leading into the Olympics, which is not enough to get momentum for Tokyo.

"We understand the reasons and applaud World Rugby for putting player welfare first, but it does make planning for next season a challenge.

"We have to laud World Rugby for their efforts in this regard though, as they have offered financial assistance to all teams who qualified for the Olympics, and their efforts with the regional tournaments are commendable."

World Rugby announced some warm-up tournaments for early next year, with a first of those inter-regional preparation events to take place in Madrid, Spain, over two weekends late in February.

For Powell, playing in those tournaments will be crucial: "We will have to play in those, no doubt and we will discuss this as part of our planning for next year with SA Rugby.

"The tournaments in Spain will be crucial for us, as will any other regional events leading up to the Olympics and hopefully, we can play in two or three of those. Our main aim for 2021 remains the same and that is to be successful at the Olympics," Powell added.

The high-performance event in Spain is being hosted by the Federación Española de Rugby (FER) and supported by World Rugby, and will feature up to 12 men's and 12 women's teams participating across two successive weekends (20-21 and 27-28 February).

It is the first two of several high-performance focused opportunities being scheduled during the first half of 2021 to assist in the development and preparation of sevens teams in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. World Rugby will announce further details in due course.

- SA Rugby

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