As the bullocking winger for South Africa U20 in 2008, Omphile ‘Tom’ Seabela was at the inaugural Junior World Championship in Wales.
He played three seasons in the Pretoria Boys’ High School 1st XV. He has also played for the Blue Bulls at Craven Week for three consecutive years.
His coach at Pretoria Boys’ High School, Paul Anthony, knew from the start Seabela had to play for his team.
‘I play any U16 player who has the talent and ability, and most of all the strength to handle from that level up. I did it with John Smit, Brian Liebenberg, and Chiliboy Ralepelle, and Tom was good enough to play at 1st XV level that early,’ says Anthony.
‘He’s a great all-round player and a very strong finisher. Last year, while he was still at school, Tom made the Blue Bulls U19 team that reached the final of the tournament. That’s how highly he’s rated.’
There is no substitute for pace, and Seabela has loads of it.
‘He’s run the 100m in 10.6 seconds and to go with it, he is very strong. You give him space and he’s gone,’ says Anthony.
Seabela has made a pleasant habit of playing in age-group representative teams from a much younger age, and that didn’t change this year. He was selected for the Baby Boks aged 19, and scored a try in his two outings at the Junior World Championship. Barring injury or an unexpected loss of form, Seabela will use this good experience to return to the Baby Boks.
‘In 2009, I think he’ll play a big role with SA U20 and will be pushing for a place in the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup side. I know there are so many good players at the union, but in the next three years I’d say he’ll be playing Currie Cup and Super 14. He’s a big lad [1.80m and 85kg] who has both the pace and power to play some good rugby very soon.’
But, like all young players, Seabela has aspects he needs to work on to make him an international-standard finisher.
‘We are busy on his footwork,’ Anthony confirms. ‘Tom is a very direct player because he’s a big guy but his ability to run around people is devastating. So, we want to utilise that and make sure he does it more often. His passing and catching needs a bit of attention, while his work under the high-ball also needs some fine-tuning.’
Anthony has no doubt Seabela will go places, but he doesn’t want to see him rushed too quickly, despite his enormous promise.
‘Tom’s played above his age-group successfully all his life, but I want to see him at his own age-level for a couple of years,’ he says. ‘While he’s honing one or two skills with those guys, it will allow him to really excel in the future.’
By Grant Ball