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EXCLUSIVE: Seabelo Senatla on Switch to Fifteens, Injury, & Focus for 2019

Seabelo Senatla on focusing on fifteens, intensity of the World Sevens Series, and his comeback from injury.

Jeremy Proome



One of the most prolific names on the HSBC World Sevens Series in recent years is that of Seabelo Senatla. The 25-year-old speedster has racked up 224 tries in 203 matches with the Blitzbokke, along with a Sevens Player of the Year award in 2016; however, Senatla has set his sights firmly on the 15-man game for now; and we caught up with him to find out a bit more about his relationship with sevens and plans going forward.

“It’s definitely become easier”, explained Senatla on the constant switching between sevens and full 15s. “It’s the best thing for me at this point in time, because always transitioning back and forth doesn’t allow you to get too settled in one or the other, but now I can put all my energy and focus into the 15-man game.”

“It’s also going to be better from a coaching point of view, because you’re switching from one style or method of coaching to another again and again, and it can cause a clash, so it’s great to be focused on one system for the time-being.”

Seabelo Senatla interview

Seabelo Senatla has been working with HSBC this weekend at Cape Town 7s to help continue the unprecedented growth of Rugby Sevens globally.

Looking back at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where Senatla left with a bronze medal, the Stormers winger said that while there was an incredible aura around playing sevens at the Olympic Games, the intensity and quality at the HSBC World Sevens Series has been elevated to be as competitive as the Games were, if not more.

“Every team is getting tougher, faster, and smarter on the circuit, so it’s becoming more and more difficult to play each team, and that’s why you’re seeing the smaller teams upset the bigger ones more frequently.

As for Senatla’s shift in training to prioritising 15s, Senatla says that while there is a bit of incentive for him to bulk up, he knows exactly what he has to bring to the table, and doesn’t want to lose sight of that.

“Getting big will cause me to lose the skill that separates me. So it’s all about maintaining my size and explosiveness, but keeping my speed.”

Looking at the Springbok Sevens players who have transitioned to 15s excellently – the likes of Cheslin Kolbe, Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage, and Kwagga Smith, for example – Senatla says it’s nothing short of inspiring for him.

“It’s nice to see that the coaches are taking note of the sevens players, because the system is there for a reason. It helps players visualise everything on a scale that makes you very vulnerable, so you’re forced to develop your skills to a heightened level. So seeing how well they’ve all done gives me a lot of hope.”

Through his time with the Springbok Sevens, Senatla has had the opportunity to visit all major stops on the HSBC Sevens World Series, but if one city stands out to him, it’s his home of Cape Town.

“They all have their special things about them, but it’s hard not to love Cape Town; but if I did have to pick one other city, it would be Sydney… because, well, it reminds me of Cape Town,” Senatla joked.

Looking ahead to 2019, Senatla has put his recovery front and centre, skipping Currie Cup and giving himself time to get his body right for the new season. And thankfully, things are going excellently for the flyer.

“I’m at a stage where I’m smiling and life is good – my recovery is going well and it’s put me into a very good mind-space. I’m very confident in the gym and doing things I haven’t done in a while.”

“That said, it is a difficult thing to go through. If you had asked me a couple months ago, I would’ve been in a very different headspace and frustrated with the injury. But, the further into the process I’ve got a whole new perspective for it. I’m feeling explosive and ready to get back onto the field.”

Senatla is included in the Stormers Super Rugby squad for 2019.

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