Springbok Sevens player Ruhan Nel does not it when things happen in threes, but if the Blitzboks manage to reach the final for a third consecutive year at the HSBC Canada Sevens, he would prefer it to end up differently.
Nel, who scored three tries on debut for the Blitzboks, believes they can go all the way in Vancouver this weekend, despite the absence of a number of stalwarts for the sixth tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
For that to happen, Nel is willing to put up his hand and make his presence felt, especially on defence.
“I am more than happy to be seen as one of the pillars on defence,” said Nel.
“Playing fifteens last year made me more aware of the physical dominance on defence and I am happy to apply that in sevens. In fact, I could use some sevens skills in fifteen as well, like spatial awareness for example.
“I was happy with my contribution in Vegas, considering that I was not part of the original squad and was aiming towards the Vancouver tournament.”
The influential midfielder was called into action in Las Vegas last weekend as the official replacement when Werner Kok was concussed in the first match of the tournament. The original plan was for him to make his return in Vancouver, but Nel was more than happy to run onto the Las Vegas pitch.
“When I saw Werner taking the knock, I thought I might be in business sooner than planned. My knee came through fine though and I am ready for this weekend,” said Nel, who has played 25 tournaments so far.
“We slipped up in Las Vegas and we know what we did wrong, so we are keen to get back on the field and rectify those mistakes. There is no reason why we cannot do that and be successful again.”
The Blitzboks visited West Vancouver Secondary School on Tuesday and according to Nel it was a fruitful afternoon.
“We love meeting local kids in all the countries we play and this was no different,” he said.
“This time around we visited a different school from the previous two years and it was quite a scenic route to get here, so it was a nice trip overall.”
Last year was an extraordinary season for Nel, who was part of three different title-winning squads. The first was the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title with the Blitzboks, and then both the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and Currie Cup with DHL Western Province.
He is quick to name another three on his “to-do” list: “Well, Vancouver for one, then the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast in April) and the Rugby Sevens World Cup (San Francisco in July). Looking at the last two, a good performance here in Vancouver is then non-negotiable.”
The tournament is played on 10-11 March and South Africa face New Zealand, Scotland and Russia in Pool D.