Dan Retief

Seabelo Senatla could be a star in XVs

Posted in Home by Dan Retief on 4 Dec 2016
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Seabelo Senatla, by in Dubai garnering yet another Player of the Tournament accolade in the HSBC Sevens series, has again drawn attention to a flaw, sadly one of a myriad, in South Africa’s rugby.

Last year’s Sevens player of the year top-scored with 11 tries, moving his career mark to 168, to spearhead the Blitzbokke’s charge to the trophy and again raised the question: should he be pulled into the XVs with a view to making the Springboks?

The knee-jerk reaction from the game’s bureaucrats would be that he is “too small.”

Others would argue that he should be left to specialize in the mini game. “Leave him be, let him just excel at what he’s good at.”

I’ve already had that reaction from the “smart” experts on Twitter.

However I disagree. A player such as Senatla, a Sevens machine with his pace, power, anticipation and vision, could be sensational in the XVs game… provided he is picked for his attributes and not stifled because of reservations about his defence, or whatever, in the tighter confrontations prevalent on a field crammed with 30 players.

That is why it is exciting that the Lions have come knocking at his door.

The like of Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin, who fashioned a dashing suit from the cloth they found at Ellis Park, will have a plan to put him in space and to use his pace.

Senatla has been used in the XVs by Western Province, and showed dazzling glimpses of what he could be capable of, but I could not rid myself of the impression that his call-up lacked serious commitment.

That fact is that Senatla is not that small. At 82 kilograms and 1.86m (181 pounds/6ft 1in) he is lighter, but taller, and possibly quicker than South Africa’s greatest try-scorer Bryan Habana (89 kgs/1.79m) but in fact much bigger than a player such as the great Shane Williams (80kgs/1.7m) of Wales, not to mention many other “pocket rockets.”

Dynamic players such Brent Russell and Gio Aplon suffered because of the “too small” default setting in our game and it would be tragedy if Senatla was not at least given a realistic shot at it.

Whether the expertise exists in the current Springbok set-up to bring the most out of him, if he were to be drawn in, is a discussion for another day…