Neil Powell Appointment Will Make Sharks One Of The Most Attacking Teams In World Rugby
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The best way you could describe the Sharks’ current season in the United Rugby Championship is a bit stop-start. Indeed, the side from the east coast of South Africa currently lies ninth in the table and have battled to find any fluidity in their debut season in Europe. You could argue that in many ways, a sluggish start isn’t a surprise and was always going to be expected as the team acclimatized to the demands of rugby in the northern hemisphere.
With this in mind, fans in Natal have been relatively relaxed with regards to the inconsistent results as the team is given a free pass to find their range in a new competition thousands of miles away from home. The management of the Sharks, however, have taken an altogether different view and have begun putting in place a coaching team that will rival the pedigree of most national teams, never mind domestic sides.
The latest appointment to the Sharks management is Neil Powell who joins the franchise as Director of Rugby. Powell’s name may be met with a degree of indifference from international rugby fans but in South Africa, he is revered for the work he has done with the country’s sevens side over the last nine years.
We are delighted to announce that Neil Powell, the highly successful Blitzboks coach will take on the role of The Sharks Director of Rugby from this September.
— The Sharks (@SharksRugby) February 13, 2022
Under Powell, the Blitzboks have won three World Rugby Sevens Series titles and are the current champions after winning the 2021 edition. Simply put, they have been the most dominant side in the world whilst Powell has been overseeing operations and the Sharks hierarchy will see his appointment as a monumental coup, even if the 43-year-old has been excelling in a different code outside of rugby union.
Four 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments, four gold medals.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) February 2, 2022
If anything, it is actually Powell’s sevens background that could benefit him and ultimately turn the Sharks into one of the most attack-minded sides in the United Rugby Championship. For those in the dark about what sevens rugby is, it is, in essence, a watered-down version of rugby league given how few restarts take place during a match.
In addition to that, the onus is also on attack and with just seven competitors on each side, there are huge gaps for players to utilize in a bid to cross the whitewash. Indeed, similar to rugby league, it is designed to produce a far more end-to-end spectacle and perhaps rather tellingly, there have been many examples of players who have played both sevens and rugby league.
Of late, the hugely impressive William Warbrick who has come up against Powell’s side many times over the years is arguably the most high-profile player to switch codes. Warbrick left the All Blacks Sevens in November 2021 and signed for Melbourne Storm, who are incidentally, at just 9/2 in rugby league betting to win the upcoming NRL season which is yet another indication of the type of blistering talent who plays sevens.
William Warbrick recently made his debut for the All Blacks 7s. This time last year he was competing in the 2018 #redbullignite7. Congratulations William, what a massive achievement. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/7Us25MUePN
— All Blacks Sevens (@AllBlacks7s) November 10, 2019
So given how skilled these individuals are who play both codes and how much the general philosophy is based on attack, we can safely assume that under Powell, the Sharks will make a welcome departure from their cautious kicking game and look to implement more of a running style that is found in rugby league and sevens.
This is, after all, a brand of rugby that Neil Powell knows like the back of his hand but he will naturally have his work cut out to make it a success in a team of 15 players. Should he be able to do so then the Sharks will become one of the most enterprising sides in the world.