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‘Time to move on’: Neil Powell ready for a new challenge

Blitzboks coach Neil Powell is having a fantastic year, despite being barely two months in, after seeing his team dominate the Sevens World Series and being confirmed as the new Sharks rugby director after his coaching stint came to an end in September.

Powell has spent nine years at the helm of the Blitzboks after being named head coach in 2013, and he has led them to new heights by taking three World Series titles during his tenure after the national team won just one. before he took over.

However, his time in the SA Sevens lineup is finally coming to an end and he will move on to the next challenge with the Sharks after the Sevens World Cup in Cape Town later this year.

“It was an amazing trip with South Africa Sevens. I feel like I’ve given everything to the system that I could give over the years, and I felt it was now time for me to move on and for someone else to step in and take over.” said Powell.

“Also for my own personal development I needed a new challenge, so I think this was the perfect time to move on and challenge myself on another level.

“The challenge with the Sharks is very exciting and hopefully I can help them achieve their goals in the coming years.”

The Blitzboks have put in a stellar performance over the past six months, after a disappointing performance at the Tokyo Olympics in fifth place.

Since then, the team has gone undefeated, winning the two events in the shortened 2021 World Series to be crowned champions, then winning a further four events in a row in the current series, with a 34-game winning streak in the championship. process.

“It was a big disappointment, everything that happened in the Olympics, so we had time for a debrief and we wanted to close that door and focus on the season ahead,” Powell explained.

“So the guys wanted to take it a step further and become the number one team in the world again, but I don’t think we ever thought we would have a winning streak like we’ve done for the past few months. So it was incredible and I’m really happy for the guys.”

The Blitzboks are currently on a well-deserved break and will be rejoining shortly to prepare for the next World Series events in April, and they will then have a packed schedule for the next six months, with the Commonwealth Games and World Cup waiting at the end of a test period.

“All we’re doing in the coming months is building the team for the Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup,” Powell said.

“We will be testing some different combinations and giving different players playing time, so it will be a challenge for the whole squad and the coaching staff, but our main focus is on those two events.

“Especially now that the Sevens World Cup is being held in Cape Town, that’s the big one for us and the one we want to make sure we’re fully prepared for, so it’s going to be an exciting run up ahead. months.”

Sean Everitt and Neil Powell
Sharks coach Sean Everitt (left) and newly appointed Rugby Director Neil Powell. Image: Gallo Images

However, Powell enjoys his time off from the game and takes the opportunity to cut out and freshen up for his last big push before rounding out an impressive stint with the Blitzboks.

To clear his mind, he spends a lot of time with his family, while also recently taking up trail running, which gives him a chance to clear his head.

“It’s always great to have a little rest and take the game off when you get the chance, because it takes a lot out of you when you’re constantly preparing and ready for the next challenge, and then of course with all the travel and tours,” says Powell.

“So one of the ways I like to do that is to spend some time with the family or go out with them, which really helps me switch off and not think about rugby, but in the nine years with the blitzboks I learned to easily switch off and on again.

“One of the things I started doing after the heavy lockdown to clear my head was trail running, and I started to enjoy it. So when I need to clear my head, I go to the mountains and do a 6 or 8 km trail run.

“I just enjoy time in nature, being in the mountains with your thoughts and getting away from it all, so trail running really refreshes me.”

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