Blitzboks coach demoted at request in Saru coaching structure reshuffle

Blitzboks coach demoted at request in Saru coaching structure reshuffle
Head coach Sandile Ngcobo during the South Africa men's national rugby sevens team training session at BC Place on March 01, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images)

Sandile Ngcobo has been demoted at his request after a stuttering Sevens season.

The Blitzboks coaching hierarchy has been restructured, with head coach Sandile Ngcobo returning to coaching the Springboks Sevens Academy and Ngcobo’s assistant, Philip Snyman, taking control of the Blitzboks, SA Rugby said on Wednesday. 

This comes after a string of poor performances which include finishing ninth and 11th out of 12 in the past two events, in Vancouver and Los Angeles.

blitzboks ngcobo snyman

Philip Snyman (left) will take over as Blitzboks’ head coach from Sandile Ngcobo (right). (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

The change to the structure was made at the suggestion of Ngcobo. Snyman has been appointed only until July. His long-term prospects of coaching the team hinge on Olympic qualification and retaining core status on the SVNS World Series — neither of which are guaranteed.

The Blitzboks won the first Sevens leg in Dubai last year, but failed to make the semifinals across the next four legs.

The Springboks Sevens team is seventh overall in the standings with just three legs to play.

If they fail to finish in the top eight, they will be required to play in a promotion and relegation series.

This follows an unfruitful 2023 season in which the Blitzboks failed to qualify automatically for the Olympic Games after failing to finish in the top four.

Their second shot at Olympic qualification also fell flat when they lost to Kenya in the final of the continental qualifier last year.

The Springbok Sevens’ final opportunity to qualify is through the repechage tournament in Monaco in June, where one Olympic qualification place is available.

The Blitzboks will face the likes of Great Britain and Spain, who are core teams on the World SVNS circuit.


The Blitzboks’ Impi Visser scores during the HSBC Vancouver SVNS against Great Britain. (Photo: David Van Der Sandt / Gallo Images)

“Snyman will now hold the head coach role until the end of July and the completion of the Olympic Games in Paris — for which the team has yet to qualify,” the SA Rugby statement read.

Financial woes

SA Rugby took a massive financial hit during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. This affected every facet of the professional rugby-playing community in South Africa.

The Springbok Sevens system is still feeling the aftermath of the blow, four years later. Daily Maverick understands that the tightening of belts has constrained the system’s ability to attract and maintain Sevens stars and potential Sevens stars.

Budgets were cut during the pandemic and the academy team was almost purely home-based. Previously, the second tier of potential Blitzboks played in tournaments around the world to gain experience, but that luxury fell victim to the pandemic.

“We have a talented and experienced group of Sevens players, but they have underperformed since winning the opening event of the world series in Dubai and results have only worsened,” said CEO of SA Rugby Rian Oberholzer. 

“We have yet to qualify for the Olympics and there is a danger that the team will not automatically retain its core status in the series.

“We greatly appreciate the honesty of Sandile’s approach and must praise him for placing the team’s needs above his personal ambitions.

“We will continue to invest in his development and believe he has a future in our systems. However, the short-term needs of the team are such that for continuity purposes we have given Philip the task of reviving the team’s fortunes.

“A review of the broader Sevens department’s structure will continue to ensure that it is fit for purpose. The Blitzboks have been a shining light for rugby for many seasons and we wish to see them on fire once again.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • andrew farrer says:

    now why can’t our polititians have the same integrity and courage?

  • Steve Chiaberta says:

    Thank you, Mr. Ngcobo, for being a desperately needed good example, not only for the youth but for all South Africans in positions of power.

    Incredibly refreshing to see a person in a high up position not be self-interested and greedy for once.

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