Johannesburg - Newly appointed SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has been hard at work to ensure that the Springbok Sevens team have their full compliment of players when they tackle their title defence at this year’s Commonwealth Games.
The Blitzboks not only defend their World Rugby Sevens Series title this year, but also the gold medal they won at the Commonwealth games and while the players are busy at the Sydney Sevens, Erasmus has crossed the country to try and negotiate the release of some prominent players for the team from Super Rugby duty.
According to SuperSport.com, three players in particular - Seabelo Senatla, Tim Agaba and Kwagga Smith - are all on coach Neil Powell’s list for the Commonwealth Games and World Cup later this year but all are on dual contracts where they play Super Rugby for their respective franchises.
Smith is a key cog at the Lions, Senatla is set for more game time at the Stormers, while Agaba will continue with the Bulls and look to make an impact from the back of the scrum there.
Erasmus has held meetings with the three franchises to try and secure the players’ release for the two big tournaments, with the Commonwealth Games falling in the middle of the Sevens circuit this year and placing more pressure on the coaching staff.
Powell will also want the players for longer than just the tournaments, so as to ensure the correct conditioning and their inclusion in the game plans for both tournaments and this may be a tricky negotiation for Erasmus.
But there is hope that the trio will be successful and travel with the team to both the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, even though they return to their franchises after next weekend’s Wellington Sevens tournament.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said this week he was confident the trio would be released for Sevens duty.
“As we stand, Rassie is the director of rugby and he has been negotiating those releases in the last week. I think he has been to every franchise in the last week and has discussed the release of those players.
“Hopefully he will get them released for the Commonwealth - Commonwealth Games is pretty important for us - and then the World Cup. It probably carries a little more weight than the Series for this year.
“Whenever there is a medal involved you would like to get to the medals and hopefully those players will be released. Essentially you are talking about Kwagga, Senatla and Tim - those are the guys on dual contracts. The rest shouldn’t be too big of a problem.”
The Blitzboks are in action in the Sydney Sevens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All their games will be live on SuperSport.