New breakdown laws allow Sevens skills to come to the fore, says Jake White, Newsline

DURBAN – For some years now Sevens rugby has been a parallel sport to XVs in South Africa, with not a great deal of player movement between the codes, but that might be changing because of the incredible skills sets of the Blitzboks stars.

Last weekend, Super Fan Saturday was lit up by some sizzling scores by the Bulls’ Sevens speedsters in Stedman Gans and Kurt-Lee Arendse, while Werner Kok impressed for the Sharks and Angelo Davids showed glimpses of why he is so highly rated when he came on for the Stormers in their second half against the Lions.

The Sharks started their match with another Blitzbok on their left wing, Muller Du Plessis; the Stormers had Seabelo Senatla in their starting line-up, while veteran Bulls backs Cornal Hendricks and Gio Aplon both had three year stints with the Blitzboks at the start of their careers.

The latter two seemed to have a lot of fun offloading to the speedy youngsters in Arendse and Gans.

Last year, Rosko Specman made a sensational transition to 15s, and Kwagga Smith is another who has his roots in Sevens.

Before the Bulls’ match against the Sharks, the talk was mostly about how Jake White had beefed up his forwards during lockdown but, on the day, it was the Bulls’ backs that stole the show.

After the Bulls had beaten the Sharks 49-38, White praised Gans and Steadman, the latter having scored a spectacular length-of-the-field try.

“The way these Sevens guys are playing is really a feather in the caps of (SA Sevens coaches) Neil Powell and Marius Schoeman,” White said.

“They work superbly with those players and their basic skills are unbelievable.

“They can catch and pass beautifully. Their defence is robust and they understand the game so well,” White continued.

“When you start working with them you immediately see their excellent work ethic. It really is encouraging for me to see that we can incorporate these players seamlessly into the 15-man format.”

White added that the latest law focus on the breakdowns is helping Sevens players make their mark.

“The focus on the rules encourages players to carry the ball more, especially now with tacklers expected to roll away immediately.

“It means more space is created and that is where players with Sevens experience really come to the fore.”