File: South African rugby player Seabelo Senatla celebrates after scoring a try against Russia during the first Day of the Rugby World Series Sevens tournament match in Cape Town on December 9, 2017.
CAPE TOWN - World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year for 2016, Seabelo Senatla enjoys nothing more than using his pace to exploit space and score tries, while Rosko Specman loves creating space for his team-mates or, where the opportunity arises, to attack the try-line himself.
With 203 tries scored in only 35 tournaments, Senatla became the quickest player to reach the double-century mark of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tries. And Specman, a nominee for World Rugby Player of the Year in 2017, had a hand in many of those.
As a combination, they will be massively instrumental to the Springbok Sevens’ efforts to win back to back titles in Australia this weekend, when the HSBC Sydney Sevens takes place at the Allianz Stadium from 26-28 January.
The Blitzboks are second on the overall World Series log after the opening tournaments of the 2017/18 series in Dubai and Cape Town and keen to regain top spot with a title in Sydney.
According to Specman, they have a real desire to finish the tournament on the podium: “We are happy to be back in Sydney – the tournament was good for us in the last year or two.
We are keen as a squad to make amends for what happened in Cape Town, where we tended to be too individual.
“We need to make sure we stay within our structures. We’ve seen in the past that if we do that, we will be successful,” said Specman.
The flyer received individual recognition with his World Rugby nomination, but he is far more comfortable knowing that he is contributing as part of the team effort: “My role is to make sure the guys next to me are in good positions to score and for that I need to create space for them. On defence I need to chat to them from behind to where the gaps are opening up.
“If I do what is required of me then the individual side of my performance will also benefit. It is the structures that allow the individual to shine, not the other way around.”
Senatla agrees and cannot wait to lace up his boots again. Like last year, he will return to fifteens after next weekend’s tournament in New Zealand, a move he hopes will work out better than last year.
“It was not the fairy tale I hoped it to be,” admitted Senatla.
“I got injured in my first game for the DHL Stormers and then was injured in my first game back again. In the end, though, I finished on a high note, winning the Currie Cup (with DHL Western Province). When I returned to sevens, it was easy to slot back in.
“The team environment has been great as always and I have been given wonderful opportunities. It demands the best of your abilities and that is a great foundation taking that into fifteens.
“I am still young in rugby terms and have a lot to learn in all aspects of the game, so in that regard, it was good to play sevens again.”
The Springbok Sevens team play Papua New Guinea in their opening match on Friday.
Although they have met five times before, the last clash was way back in 2003, when the Blitzboks won 49-0.
The PNG team scored a famous victory against South Africa though, by 21-10 in Tokyo in 2000, something the current crop of players are well aware of.
“We need to do our basics right from the start,” said Specman.
“There are lots of rugby to be played this year, but we cannot afford to look further than Friday and Papua New Guinea. We need to start strong and lay the foundation for the rest of the weekend.”