CAPE TOWN – Quite some time has passed since Blitzbok wing Siviwe Soyizwapi last visited the New Zealand leg of the World Sevens Series.
Since making his Wellington debut in 2017 when the Blitzboks won only their second tournament in New Zealand since 2002, the man known as “Shakes” has gained a fair bit of experience - two years, 20 tournaments, 101 matches, 310 points and 62 tries, to be exact.
He missed last year’s inaugural Hamilton event due to a knee injury, and in between his bow in the New Zealand capital in 2017 and his looming Hamilton debut this weekend (the event moved from Wellington to Hamilton in 2018) there have been many a fine moment served by the former Southern Kings representative.
Following his standout performances for the Academy that made his constant knocking on the senior team’s door a loud and commanding one, Soyizwapi has done a lot. You only had to have witnessed his big break in Hong Kong in 2016 (where he scored four tries over the course of his first weekend on the World Sevens Series) to get a glimpse of what he could - and does - produce in a permanent role.
From becoming the first man since the 2005 Sevens World Cup to score four tries in a match in San Francisco last year to all the subtle yet vital contributions he makes in 14 minutes, Soyizwapi’s experience and ability will be crucial in helping a team with no fewer than four Hamilton debutants on Saturday and Sunday.
Apart from coming out on top at the New Zealand tournament in 2017, the Springbok Sevens team were runners-up in 2018 (against Fiji), while they were also runners-up in Wellington in 2014 and 2016.
And sticking to what’s worked for them in the past is the best recipe to success, according to the 26-year-old.
“We need to stick to the standards we set for ourselves in the past. That made us successful before, so that should be part of our mindset and journey,” said Soyizwapi.
“We have a number of new combinations here and it will be important for those to find each other early. We trained well together in Stellenbosch, so we should be good to go once we to take to the field.”
Impi Visser, Dewald Human, Selvyn Davids and Soyizwapi will contribute at Waikato Stadium for the first time. Following their sixth-place finish in Dubai and an improvement to third place in Cape Town, coach Neil Powell last week said that all he wants is improvement - not in terms of results, but more in on-field performance.
Despite the challenges, Soyizwapi reckons they can get the job done if they just stick to their processes.
“We have a number of guys coming back from injury, but we have managed to overcome that in the past,” the wing concluded.
The Blitzboks will face Kenya, France and Scotland in Pool C in Hamilton.@WynonaLouw