South Africa Blitzboks undergo coaching shake-up in bid to revive HSBC SVNS fortunes


The South African Springbok Sevens team, affectionately known as the Blitzboks, has undergone a coaching makeover.

This overhaul, announced by SA Rugby, comes in the wake of a series of underwhelming performances that have seen the team stray far from its traditionally dominant path in the world of rugby sevens.

Historically a powerhouse in the HSBC Sevens World Series, the Blitzboks have found themselves grappling with an unusual predicament this season.

After consistently finishing in the top two in 12 of the last 16 seasons, they are currently languishing in seventh place in the standings. The recent tournaments in Vancouver and Los Angeles only added to their woes, with the team finishing ninth and eleventh, respectively.

These results have put the Blitzboks at risk of having to play in a promotion and relegation series should they fail to secure a top-eight finish.

New Blitzboks head coach Philip Snyman. PHOTO: Springbok, X

In a response to these challenges, SA Rugby has implemented changes to the coaching staff, with Sandile Ngcobo, who was elevated from Sevens Academy coach to head coach in September 2022, stepping down to focus on nurturing the next generation of sevens players.

Philip Snyman, a former Blitzbok captain and assistant coach, will take over the reins as head coach until the end of July, including the Olympic Games in Paris, for which the team is yet to qualify.

The decision for this reshuffle came at the suggestion of Ngcobo himself, demonstrating a commendable level of self-awareness and team-first mentality.

This move was communicated to the players last week, highlighting the proactive measures being taken by SA Rugby to address the situation.

SA Rugby CEO message

Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby, expressed concern over the team’s performance, stating, “We have a talented and experienced group of Sevens players, but they have underperformed since winning the opening event of the world series in Dubai, and results have only worsened.”

Sandile Ngcobo (right) and Philip Synman. PHOTO: Courtesy, X

Oberholzer praised Ngcobo for his honesty and dedication to the team’s success over personal ambition. The ongoing review of the Sevens department’s structure aims to ensure it is “fit for purpose,” reflecting SA Rugby’s commitment to returning the Blitzboks to their former glory.

Ngcobo’s reflections on the team’s performance reveal a mix of frustration and determination. He pointed out discipline around the tackle area and execution of basics as key areas of concern, highlighting the need for depth in the squad to foster internal competition.

Ngcobo’s candid admission that the team is not living up to the proud standards of the Springbok badge underscores the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for improvement.

As the Blitzboks prepare for their next challenge at the Hong Kong Sevens from April 5-7, the team’s focus will undoubtedly be on redemption.

With the Hong Kong and Singapore tournaments remaining in the season, securing a top-eight finish to retain core status in the series remains a critical objective.

The coaching overhaul, spearheaded by the experienced Snyman, is a bold move aimed at stabilizing the ship and steering the Blitzboks back to their winning ways.

“We will continue to invest in his development and believe he has a future in our systems. However, the short-term needs of the team are such that for continuity purposes we have given Philip the task of reviving the team’s fortunes,”Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby.

The journey ahead will be closely watched by fans and critics alike, as South Africa seeks to reignite the fiery spirit and exceptional talent that has long defined the Blitzboks on the global sevens stage.

In the broader context of South African rugby, this coaching transition represents a pivotal moment. It underscores the dynamic nature of sports, where adaptability, resilience, and leadership are crucial to overcoming challenges.

As the Blitzboks embark on this new chapter, the support and expectations of their passionate fanbase will be a driving force behind their quest for resurgence and success on the international stage.

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