CAPE TOWN – The Blitzboks have every reason to want to make the step up and own the Hamilton Sevens tournament this weekend.
They’ll want to do that for obvious rugby - or title defending - reasons, but also to make it a special one for one of their greatest stalwarts, Kyle Brown.
When Brown takes to the field in New Zealand, he will equal the record of most World Series tournament appearances by a Blitzbok set by Frankie Horne back in 2015.
Friday will mark Brown’s 68th tournament appearance, and while he will surpass Horne’s milestone in Sydney next weekend if he comes through the Kiwi showpiece unscathed, he chose to, in typical Brown fashion, focus on the impact Horne has had on his career rather than his impending record.
“What Frankie did was truly remarkable, but for me the significance of his contribution to Springbok Sevens as a whole outweighs any record he has set,” said Brown. “I was privileged to play in many, many tournaments with Frankie and was, in fact, inspired by him to take up the game.”
The trend of experienced Sevens players being lured to the 15-man game has become an increasingly popular one in recent years, and one trait the 31-year-old Brown shares with Horne is their dedication to the game of Sevens.
“He was setting standards from way out and changed the way playing for the Blitzboks was seen. His decision to focus solely on Sevens as a career helped me to make the same call when I needed to, and to be able to play with him for so long in the forwards was a joy,” elaborated the former long-serving Springbok Sevens skipper.
Brown got struck down by injury during the Cape Town leg of the World Sevens Series two years ago, and last year, after recovering from the 2016 setback, he injured his other knee in Singapore, which saw him sit out the London and Paris legs of the 2017-18 season.
“These injuries made me realise how significant Frankie’s record was - he played for eight consecutive years and it took me 10 to reach the same mark,” Brown explained.
In Hamilton last year, Brown captained the 2016-17 and 2017-18 series-winning unit for the 44th (tournament) time in Philip Snyman’s absence through injury.
And according to Brown, his priorities have changed since being a fresh-faced Blitzbok to approaching the final stages of his career.
“In the beginning winning was everything, but playing with a smile on my face has been the biggest reward in the last couple of years,” Brown said.@WynonaLouw