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Senatla and Kok up for Sevens Player of the Year


Each year World Rugby honor not just the teams but also the coaches, players and key person in rugby. Avril Fillies looks at the Sevens stars that are nominted this year for Sevens Player of the Year. Among them are South Africans Werner Kok and Seabetlo Senatla and Fiji star Semi Kunatani. Avril look a little bit deeper into these brilliant sevens players…..

Seabelo Senatla, Mark Richards, Justin Geduld, Werner Kok, Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith, Reuben Johannes, Bernardo Botha
Seabelo Senatla, Mark Richards, Justin Geduld, Werner Kok, Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith, Reuben Johannes, Bernardo Botha

By Avril Fillies

Werner Kok and Seabetlo Senatla, two stalwarts of the SA Sevens Team, are nominated with Semi Kunatani of Fiji for the Sevens Player of the Year. The winner will be announced at the World Rugby Awards Dinner on Sunday 1 November at Battersea Evolution, London, following the Rugby World Cup 2015 final.

Management teams of 15 core sides nominated the trio after all nine rounds of the World Series for 2014/15.

5949442-3x2-940x627Werner made his debut for the Blitzbokke last year in London. He was instrumental in South Africa’s performances in all nine of the 2014/15 tournaments, most notably in their Cup win on home soil in Port Elizabeth and they became the first side to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He ended the season as the leading tackler of all players.

He was born in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, and played centre for the Pumas in 2009 at the 2009 Grant Khomo Craven Week for U16 players. In 2011 he played for the U18 Craven Week team of the Pumas before het joined Western Province in 2012. At Western Province he played in the U19 team and scored 11 tries. In 2013 he joined Neil Powell’s team and is currently one of the star players in the team.

south-africa_2988360bSeabelo is the youngest of the trio and ended the season as the leading try scorer with 47 tries and also scored two of this year’s fan favourites, as well as scoring in each of South Africa’s Cup final victories in Dubai and Port Elizabeth. His blistering pace has been one of the talking points of the season, with few able to catch him when he is in full flight.

He was born in Welkom in the Free State and attended the Primary Schools Aurora and Koppie Allen in his hometown. He attended Riebeeckstad High, also in Welkom, and played for the Griffons in all the age group competitions, Grant Khomo (U16), U18 Academy and U19. He also represented the Griffons in the First Division Currie Cup before he joined the Cheetahs at U19 and U21 teams. At the beginning of this year he played for the Stormers in Superugby after the completion of the 2014/15 season of the World Series and is also part of the WP Currie Cup side.

Before Werner and Seabelo joined the Blitzbokke they were part of the SA Samurai team of former Sevens player Marius Schoeman in 2013. Players from that squad that progressed to the Blitzbokke are Cheslin Kolbe and Kwagga Smith that were unbeaten at the Dubai tournament in 2013. Cheslin and Kwagga are also playing for the different provinces in Superrugby and Curri Cup, Cheslin for Western Province and Kwagga for the Lions.

Werner attended the Nelspruit Primary and High School, if you can add that as well. In the article just add the name of Justin Geduld as well where I mention that they all progressed to the Blitzbokke.

Both of them agreed that being nominated is an honour but if one of them are crowned as the winner it would be the cherry on the cake. They are also the Commonwealth winners of 2014 when they beat New Zealand in the final. Kwagga was also part of the Dream Team after the conclusion of the World Series. Really a huge achievement of the South Africans for the 2014/15 season and that is why they are Proudly South African.

The Fijian Semi Kunatani has been impressive in both attack and defence for Ben Ryan’s side in all of their Cup titles this season. He finished the season as one of the leading tacklers and try scorers (40), seven less that Seabelo. Having made his debut in Dubai last season, the Fijian has earned a contract with French club Toulouse for next season, but coach Ryan will have him available for four season tournaments for 2015/16 and the Olympics, should he select him.

Cecil Africa, their teammate, was the winner of the title in 2011 and hopefully one of them would follow in his footsteps.

****This was written by Avril Christina who was the first female rugby reporter in South Africa in 1982, she was also the first female writer that toured with seven males to New Zealand in 1996. She was Media24 Sports Writer of the Year in 2008. Avril also coach Western Province Defence Team, Western Province Women’s Team and Maties Women’s Team