Spare a thought for the SA Sevens organisers. Their best efforts to create something worthwhile for the under-18 national players has instead turned into a bit of a nightmare as a result of the Elite Player Development camp (EPD) being given the green light to take preference over national Sevens players.
Initially an SA u18 Sevens team was chosen and approved to travel to Namibia for the annual Capricorn sponsored international Sevens event in Windhoek at the end of February 2020. The players were later informed that this tour had been cancelled.
The reason for the decision was that many of the players making up the Sevens squad have been withdrawn to take part in the EPD camp over the same end of February weekend.
How did this overlap even come about? It seems amazing that two bodies belonging to the same organisation, focusing on the same school going age-group levels, somehow did not consult each other about their plans or available dates. Both are meant to have experience as the processes of arranging EPD camps and Sevens tours have been recurring events for a few years now.
The answer is the last weekend in February has been identified as the only weekend available for the EPD to go ahead with a hindrance. This was due to the full schedules of the schools starting a week after that. In the past, as a result of official schoolboy rugby commitments, some schools had prevented invited players from traveling to the EPD camp in Stellenbosch.
The Springbok Sevens division of SARU had actually tried in vain to have the Namibia event moved to October in an effort to improve the quality of the tournament, as research showed that more international teams like England and the USA would be available to participate during that time window later in the year.
As things now stand, a revised SA u18 team for the Namibian Sevens tournament will hopefully be ratified and announced by Wednesday, 19 February 2020.