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The South African sevens legend who is 'absolutely convinced' about becoming a Springbok

By Online Editors
Seabelo Senatla in action at the 2018 Sydney Sevens. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

He’s become one of South Africa’s most lethal weapons on the World Rugby Sevens Series, but things haven’t panned out so smoothly for Seabelo Senatla in the XVs version of rugby.

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With a whopping 224 tries in 203 matches for the Blitzboks on the world sevens circuit, the 26-year-old flyer sits in fourth place on the series’ all-time try-scorer list, trailing only England’s Dan Norton (338 tries), Kenya’s Collins Injera (271) and Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora (230).

Senatla’s nose for the tryline in the abbreviated format of the game has yielded plenty of international success.

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He played a key role in South Africa’s back-to-back World Sevens series titles in 2017 and 2018, claimed a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, despite being apart of the Western Province and Stormers set-ups since 2014, Senatla hasn’t been able to replicate that success in the game’s traditional XVs format.

Injuries and sevens commitments restricted him from pushing for higher honours beyond Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, although he did win a solitary appearance for a South Africa A side against the touring French Barbarians in 2017.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t quelled his desire to represent the Springboks at test level and put his 2020 Tokyo Olympics ambitions on hold, according to new Stormers coach John Dobson.

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“Seabelo is absolutely convinced that he can become a Springbok,” he said at a media briefing in Bellville on Monday.

That is his focus. He is actually discounting quite a bit in terms of wages to be able to do that. I hope he makes it. He is really keen.”

It’s a big ask for Senatla to crack into the Springboks set-up, especially considering the impact incumbent wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe had on the South African side en route to their World Cup title tilt in Japan earlier this month.

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Senatla will join Stormers teammate Ruhan Nel in the Blitzboks’ opening two tournaments of the 2019-20 World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai and Cape Town next month before fully committing himself to the upcoming Super Rugby campaign.

Dobson said Nel could leave the squad later in the season if he is selected for the Olympics in August.

“We’ve got Angelo Davids, Ruhan and Seabelo. Angelo is staying with the Sevens for the whole season, while Seabelo and Ruhan will join us at our pre-season camp after the Cape Town Sevens,” Dobson said.

“Seabelo will be with us full-time. If he gets selected, Ruhan will go to the Olympics and miss the Super Rugby playoffs.”

The Stormers open their 2020 Super Rugby season against the Hurricanes at Newlands in Cape Town on February 1.

In other news:

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finn 6 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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