After winning the HBSC World Rugby Sevens Series with the Blitzboks earlier this year, Ruhan Nel did not relax and enjoy the fruits of his labour, but rather jumped straight into the blue and white hoops of DHL Western Province for their SuperSport Rugby Challenge campaign.
This move was rewarded when the Capetonians won the inaugural tournament, but more silverware awaited Nel, who represented the Xerox Golden Lions and Tafel Lager Griquas at wing earlier in his career.
Playing at inside centre, outside centre and wing for DHL Western Province in the Currie Cup, Nel then lifted South Africa’s premier domestic trophy as well, giving him a unique triple for the year.
Now back with the Blitzboks for another World Series, his thirst for trophies is far from over, Nel confirmed in Dubai, where the South Africans are preparing for the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens tournament, the first of the 2017/18 series.
“The fifteens certainly helped me improve my contact skills and physicality, while I found it easier to identify space and to get my defensive alignment correct, thanks to my sevens experience, so the benefit worked both ways. “I certainly feel that I had the best of both worlds. “
Nel performed very well for the Blitzboks last season, playing in all 10 tournaments and becoming a regular starter for the team, so it is not surprising that he is looking for another solid contribution.
“It is always an honour to play for the Blitzboks and this new season brings new challenges,” said Nel.“We also have the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup Sevens this season, so it is very easy to be motivated.”
Tim Agaba, meanwhile, applauded the impact the Blitzboks had on his career. Although he missed the first half of the series-winning season due to an ankle injury, the big forward also hopped over to fifteens, where he represented the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup.
“Unfortunately I was injured early on in the campaign, so I am very happy to be back in the team at the start of the new season,” said Agaba.
“The skills your pick up in sevens certainly aid your development to be a better fifteens players, not the other way around,” he feels.
Agaba could play in his 50th match for the Blitzboks against Uganda, his country of birth in the opening match of the South African campaign, but he chooses to rather focus on the outcomes for the team, rather than individual achievements.
“It is great to be back with the guys and hopefully we can do well again. We will keep our feet on the ground and keep on working hard. We believe that if we stick to our standards, everything else will take care of itself.”
South Africa’s schedule for Friday, 1 December is (SA kick-off times):