Those involved in South Africa’s rugby sevens program will tell you that Neil Powell’s impact extends far beyond than the surface level. Neil Powell’s nine-year golden reign as Blitzboks head coach may be characterized by the wins of which there were many.
Neil Powell was as unassuming a person as you could ever want to meet, and he went about revolutionizing the setup in Stellenbosch in an understated manner, with no hoopla whatsoever, in order to develop a good team and, more importantly to him, amazing men.
Angelo Davids, one of the many players he has fostered, was fighting back the emotions when asked about Neil Powell’s effect following the conclusion of the Blitzboks’ Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 campaign. High standards on the field were matched by those off it.
Davids’ father left his life when Davids was young, and after seeking for fatherly advice in various areas, he found it in 2018 when he joined the South African Rugby Sevens Academy.
Neil Powell has been more to Davids than just a coach throughout their time together. “Whenever we have a conversation about Neil Powell, it always has a profound effect on me. ‘He was the man who changed me; he was the guy who told me that I could make it; the guy who was there when I needed a father; he was the guy who told me to never give up, to keep going, and to keep believing,’ he said. “He was the man who changed me. He was the guy who told me that I could make it. He was the guy who was there when I needed a father.
Because of this, I want to express my gratitude to him for everything he done to help me throughout my life. I am going to love and miss him so very much, and I am going to miss him a great deal.
Neil Powell is the only coach who can compete with the legendary Gordon Tietjens of New Zealand in terms of sustained success.
Even though South Africa didn’t win the gold medal at the Olympic Games while he was in charge, the team still had a fantastic record thanks to three World Series championships, 37 Cup final appearances in 75 Series competitions, two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, and bronzes at the Olympics and Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Although Powell didn’t get the happy ending that many had hoped for and perhaps deserved at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022, the applause he received from the Cape Town crowd when the Blitzboks finished in seventh place says a lot about how well-liked he is.
After his final match before becoming the Sharks’ director of rugby in 15s, a 35-5 victory over Samoa, Powell reflected on a number of high points from his 15-year playing and coaching career.
Neil Powell Statement
“I would like to remember the wins,” said Powell. “I would like to remember the wins, like our very first one in the World Series in Wellington, my very first one in South Africa as a coach, when we won in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium only a few days after President Mandela had passed away, and of course, the World Series wins, especially the second one in 2018, when we beat England in the last game of the series to be crowned champions.
The Commonwealth gold medal is obviously a triumph, but the people I trained are what I will remember most. More significant than money was the fact that I seen many of them grow into outstanding individuals.
“The system has developed into this incredible system where the individuals have wonderful culture, nice manners, and are polite and disciplined.
“Young men enter the system, mature and become adults there, and come out mature, disciplined, and courteous. Being a part of it was fantastic, and I feel really honored for the time I invested in the system.
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