Neil Powell, the departing Blitzbok head coach, has offered his support to the coach who will eventually take over, as well as some words of wisdom and a promise to be there to assist with the transition. At the Sevens World Cup in Cape Town, Powell concluded his ten-year tenure as the Blitzboks’ head coach. Despite a less-than-stellar performance in his final match, Powell will remember his time with the team with affection.
“I would like to remember the wins, like our very first one in the World Series in Wellington, my very first one in South Africa as a coach, when we won in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium only a couple of days after President Mandela had passed away and, of course, the World Series wins, especially the second one in 2018, when we beat England in the last game of the series to be crowned champions,” said Powell.
“Then the Commonwealth gold wins also, but the thing I will treasure most will be the human beings I coached. I saw many of them develop into fantastic people and that was more important than gold.”
Renfred Dazel and Sandile Ngcobo are thought to be on the shortlist for the position of Springbok Sevens head coach, albeit SA Rugby has not yet made an official statement. An announcement is anticipated in the coming weeks. Powell acknowledged that while he had been consulted about choosing a successor, the ultimate call had not been made by him.
“It’s a bit above my pay grade. I got asked my opinion and gave them my opinion. But it was a decision that was taken by the (SARU) exco, the executive board. The successor is the right person for the job. He’s going to take Springbok Sevens to the next level.”Powell was asked what advice he would provide to whoever takes over after experiencing the highest of highs and some of the most profound lows with the Blitzboks.
“Stay away from social media,” Powell answered with a laugh. “It’s a tough job. Your attention, your perception of yourself, your system, and your team can all be impacted by other people’s opinions. Only pay attention to the proper individuals.
“Get someone outside the system that is not part of the success or the failure, who can give you perspective. In times of failure and success, you can lose perspective. In that respect, I would almost say that success is more dangerous than failure. It’s important to have somebody who keeps you honest and gives you that perspective. Someone who keeps you grounded and humble.”
Powell acknowledged that the Blitzboks will go through a period of some rebuilding and that South Africans will need to be patient with them. Powell won’t be the only member of the team to depart. In either this year or the following, JC Pretorius (Lions), Sako Makata (Griquas), Muller du Plessis (Sharks), and Angelo Davids (Stormers) are all expected to play fifteens.
“Any transition for any system is a challenging one,” said Powell. “There are structures and systems in place for them to continue, but with personnel and players leaving, it’s going to be a bit tricky. From my side, if there’s anything that I can help them with in terms of that transition, I would be glad to.
“There are a few quality players leaving: JC, Sako, Muller, and Angelo. It is quite a big chunk of some of our more senior players. To be brutally honest, I think it will be a rebuilding phase for Springbok Sevens, to build towards the Olympics in two years from now.”