Springbok Sevens speedster Ruhan Nel is making the most of his opportunities in 15-man rugby with Western Province during the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
It’s become a common trend for Springbok Sevens players to convert to the 15-man code when the opportunity arises. And with the Blitbzoks going on to win the 2016-17 World Series, it’s no surprise that the sevens stars are in demand.
We’ve seen Kwagga Smith (Lions) and Seabelo Senatla (Stormers) on the Super Rugby scene, with the latter featuring for South Africa ‘A’ against the French Barbarians. Former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Werner Kok also played for Western Province during last year’s Currie Cup and is expected to be available again during the 2017 campaign.
More recently, it was announced that Chris Dry, Cecil Afrika and Rosko Speckman have joined the Cheetahs squad on short-term contracts until the end of October.
Ruhan Nel has also joined the trend as he’s featured for high-flying Western Province during the SuperSport Rugby Challenge this season. The Cape Town-based union are undefeated in the inaugural domestic competition and host a play-off against the
“I’ve been very lucky to be involved in 15s rugby so early in the season. The plan was for me to join the squad for the Currie Cup later this year, but head coach John Dobson and his management were more than happy for me to be part of their plans for the SuperSport Rugby Challenge,” Nel told MyPlayers.
“I find myself in a great environment at Western Province. There’s some great young talent in the squad, and it’s nice learning from the senior players, like Bjorn Basson, who I grew up watching as a youngster. Before playing for the Lions earlier in my career, I was a big WP fan. So its great being able to play in the blue and white hoops. And living in Stellenbosch, it’s easy for me to travel to training too.”
Nel added that it’s great that sevens players are getting an opportunity on the 15-man stage.
“The Springbok Sevens just had a special season. Winning the World Series title in the fashion that we did proved to be an amazing journey… one we will never forget. And we’re excited to build on that success ahead of the upcoming Sevens Rugby World Cup and Commonwealth Games,” said Nel.
“Looking outside the sevens world, it’s clear that the players still have 15s aspirations and it’s great we can balance our careers in both codes. Personally, I want to prove what I can do in 15s rugby. I still have the dream of playing for the Springboks one day, so when the opportunity allows me to play in the Currie Cup or even Super Rugby, I’d love to showcase what value I could offer.”
Ahead of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge play-offs this weekend, Nel has played two matches at outside centre for Western Province. And he’s making a good impression in the No 13 jersey so far.
“I play in the backline in sevens, so there’s not much difference at outside centre. The only notable change is the focus on ensuring forward momentum at the contact point and not the immediate intention of tracking back as you’d do in sevens. The habits are different, but you get used to it with time,” said Nel.
Off the field, Nel is also focused on furthering his career academically. He’s currently focused on completing his degree in graphic design, having dropped out after signing a professional contract with the Lions.
“I wish I had completed my studies when I was younger, but I decided to pursue professional rugby on a full-time basis. It was short-sighted decision on my part,” said Nel. “With time, you realise it’s important to balance both commitments as soon as possible as rugby will benefit you now, while a degree will benefit you later in life.
“I will be dedicating time to focus on my studies. I definitely see myself entering the design and creative industry once I retire from rugby one day.”
By Gareth Duncan