04 August 2022 | Story Jóhann Thormählen | Photo Supplied
Neil Powell
The former Kovsie Neil Powell, Blitzboks coach, steered the South African sevens rugby side to another Commonwealth Games gold medal in Birmingham, England.

Hard work does not necessarily guarantee success, but it is part of success.

According to Neil Powell, the Blitzboks head coach, this is what his players showed by turning the team’s recent misfortunes into Commonwealth Games gold.

The South African sevens side rewarded the University of the Free State (UFS) alumnus – who will be parting ways with the team next month – by claiming another Games top spot.

The decorated coach steered his troops to a gold medal in Birmingham, England, after defeating Fiji by an impressive 31-7 in the final late on Sunday evening.

Powell and the Blitzboks also won Commonwealth gold in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014.

After nine successful years with the Blitzboks, the former Kovsie will become the new Director of Rugby at the Sharks in September 2022. His last sevens tournament will be the World Cup from 9 to 11 September 2022 in Cape Town.

Reset and rewarded

The Blitzboks, however, did not go into the Commonwealth Games as favourites, as they struggled in the last four HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments.

After winning the first four tournaments of the season, they failed to reach the semi-finals in Singapore, Vancouver, Toulouse, and London.

“After the World Series tournament in London, we had to reset and re-evaluate our goals for the rest of the season and the last three tournaments, the Commonwealth Games, the Los Angeles Sevens, and finally the Rugby World Cup Sevens,” Powell said in a SA Rugby media release.

“The guys really worked hard in the build-up to this tournament, and I’m glad they got rewarded for it.”

Memories from Glasgow Games

In 2016, Powell received a Cum Laude Award at the UFS Chancellor’s Distinguished Alumni Awards when the Blitzboks won Olympic bronze in Rio de Janeiro.

Powell represented the Cheetahs, Sharks, Griquas, Blue Bulls, and Blitzboks in his playing days and is one of 28 national sevens players produced by the UFS.

“It’s amazing to have won the gold medal again, like we did eight years ago in Glasgow, and especially after we finished fourth and didn’t win a medal at the previous Commonwealth Games in Australia, so there is a lot of emotion and the victory brought back memories of what happened in Glasgow in 2014.”

He said it was important for the team’s confidence to deliver in Birmingham in order to get momentum and belief back.

Powell hopes his side can take this into the last World Series tournament in Los Angeles on 27 and 28 August 2022, and the World Cup.

South Africa are on top of the World Series log and can take the overall honours with a good LA performance.

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