JOHANNESBURG – Bulls debutante and Sevens stalwart Dylan Sage believes that it is only a matter of time before the Blitzboks start firing at all cylinders again.
The Sevens side are languishing in fifth place on the World Rugby Sevens Series overall log at the half-way mark of the competition.
The Olympic bronze medallists run the risk of missing automatic qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which is guaranteed by a top-four finish on the overall series log. But Sage, who made his run-on debut for the Bulls over the weekend, said he is confident Neil Powell’s men will bounce back over the remaining five tournaments.
“You will always have that dip before coming up again and we can’t expect to be first every year,” Sage said. “We’ve been lucky the last couple of years but now we need to have patience in building up for the 2020 Olympics.”
Sage said the team has been diminished by the departure of some stalwarts such as Rosko Specman, Kwagga Smith, Ruhan Nel and Seabelo Senatla, and needed time to rebuild depth.
“It is a tricky situation, we’ve been lucky enough to have a good squad for the last four years where some teams have struggled to get that squad they want,” Sage said. “We are trying to find our squad and it will take a bit of time for the guys to gel together.”
Sage said he had faith in Powell to get the team back to the type of form that has seen them finish at the top of the rankings for the past two seasons.
“There might be a few up and down results but I think they will tie it together. I back coach Neil, he knows what to do there,” Sage said. “The fans just need to sit tight and have patience. The guys will hopefully come through over the latter stages of the season.”
Sage is experiencing a better run than his former teammates, making his debut for the Bulls at inside centre over the weekend. While he is expected to play a more physical role where he has to take the ball him, Sage said he relished the challenge. “It is great to be here. I’ve learned a lot in the six months since I have been here (at the Bulls),” Sage said.
“I’ve had a bit of a learning curve or a warm-up for Super Rugby in the preseason and learning from the guys.” Sevens players have traditionally battled to make the transition in fifteens rugby but there seems to be a shift of late with players like Smith looking comfortable in both formats.
“The jury is still out on a couple of us and we still have to make our strides but a guy like Kwagga has proven that he can do the transition into 15s,” Sage said.
“It is not easy… sometimes it is just the luck of the draw where you have a dip in form.
“It is just learning and giving the guys time in the system, not everyone will kick straight away, so it is just a patience game because I believe everyone can.”