Tokyo Olympics

Stick '100% convinced' that Blitzboks can claim gold despite Powell setback

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Neil Powell. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
Neil Powell. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
  • Springbok assistant coach and Blitzboks legend Mzwandile Stick has full confidence in the national sevens side's ability to claim a gold medal at the Olympics.
  • The team was hit with the major disruption of not having head coach Neil Powell present, who tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival in Tokyo. 
  • But Stick believes the team's structures and continuity is simply too watertight not to translate in a successful showing.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, a Blitzbok legend during his playing days, is still convinced his countrymen will walk away with gold in next week's Olympic Rugby Sevens despite the massive setback of not having their head coach present.

SA Rugby confirmed on Sunday that Neil Powell will have to miss the entire three-day event after testing positive for Covid-19 upon arrival in Tokyo.

Protocols dictate that he isolates for 14 days in a designated facility.

While the meticulous Powell - the master brain behind the national sevens side's success over the past few years - can still mentor his charges remotely, it will undeniably still be a source of frustration to him.

READ | Powell to miss Olympic Rugby Sevens tournament after positive test

"It wouldn't be a nice thing for Neil to go to such a massive, massive tournament and then miss out on being part of it," Stick, former skipper of the side and team-mate of Powell, said on Monday.

"It's obviously going to be a disruption for the team not having him there. And it's tough on him. If you asked Neil, he'd probably say he'd loved to be alongside his boys 24-7 for this week.

"But one thing I do know is that when you see those players train in Stellenbosch, they do so for their coach."

Indeed, given the structures in place as well as relative continuity in selection, there won't be too much concern that the Blitzboks' assault on the Olympic title will now suddenly be derailed.

"I know those boys are very tight. They'll miss him, but I believe. I know, I've seen them. I've got 100% belief that they've got what it takes to go all the way and bring back the gold," said Stick. 

"I'm excited to see what they will offer."

That confidence extends to Renfred Dazel, the man now required to marshal the troops and Powell's longtime deputy.

"It's a good opportunity for Renfred. He's been part of the setup for a long-time and it's great to see him being recognised," said Stick.

"I know the team will be really well prepared for the tournament."  

The Olympic Rugby Sevens will take place from 26 to 28 July. 
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