The South African Sevens Rugby team is preparing to say goodbye to the single most influential person the local game has ever produced.
Neil Powell dedicated his rugby career to the game of Sevens. And at the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Cape Town over the next three days, a team coached by him has a chance to deliver the most fitting of send-offs.
Powell is constant in the South African rugby Sevens set-up. A coach who has ensured a high standard, resulting in countless tournament wins, back-to-back world series wins, two Commonwealth Games gold medals, and an Olympic Games bronze medal – it will be hard to walk away from everything he has achieved.
“My viewpoint for this week is to not show emotion to the team and to be honest it has been fairly good. I think I had more emotions at the commonwealth games than this week this far.”
Powell leaves to take over as director of rugby at the Sharks, knowing he has experienced everything the game of sevens has to offer.
He adds “It’s been a good 15 years obviously many stories great memories and a lot of people that became friends and it is definitely something I will miss.”
As far as chasing World Cup glory, Powell would love to win the cup, but knows that in this tournament more than any other, one slip-up means you’re out.
“It definitely ranks up there with Olympic gold. It is a very prestigious tournament and the fact that it’s a brutal format straight knockout even makes it more prestigious.”
The Blitzboks come into the World Cup off the back of one of their worst-ever tournament finishes in Los Angeles.
However, weeks earlier they beat Fiji to win a Commonwealth Games gold and that kind of form is enough to give any coach grey hairs.
“We had in the last two tournaments where we were on top and then a few weeks later we didn’t do that well and that’s the game of sevens, it’s so unpredictable any team can win on the day.”
Powell has impacted the lives of the many players he has coached, Impi Visser credits his support off the field as carrying more weight in terms of life lessons.
“He is a great coach but also a great human being. He preaches better people make better players. His off-field stuff is also something we look up to, it’s been an incredible journey and all the best to him.”
Selvyn Davids says Powell influenced his life for the better when he needed it the most.
“He is an awesome human being as well he’s more like a father figure and taught me a lot and made me a better person.”