CAPE TOWN – It didn’t hinder their tournament-winning performances in Las Vegas on the occasions they’ve won it in the past, so there’s absolutely no reason it should deter them from going all the way this time.
That’s how Blitzbok skipper Philip Snyman feels about the 40-hour trip (the longest of the 10 stops) they had to make to Las Vegas for the fifth leg of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series.
The Blitzboks have hit the Sevens jackpot a total of four times in Sin City - in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017 - and this time, after rather disappointing finishes in Dubai (sixth), Hamilton (fourth) and Sydney (fifth), Snyman feels they need to “tap into different strengths” at the Sam Boyd Stadium next weekend.
“Las Vegas has been good to us in the past, and we have developed a liking for the stadium,” Snyman said. “We have a couple of new faces in the team, so we need to adapt to that. They bring different strengths to the system, and we need to tap into that.”
“Viva Las Vegas” Blitboks touched down in the city for #LasVegas7s after a 40 hour trip via London. The longest and furthest travel they have to do on the circuit. @Neil5Powell @CastleFreeSA @ASICSRugby @ASICS_ZA @FNBSA pic.twitter.com/JQvzhNUiTA— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) February 24, 2019
Those “different strengths” come in the form of Impi Visser, Mfundo Ndhlovu, JC Pretorius and Sako Makata - four players who are new to Nevada.
The 20 year-old Makata - who represented Border at the Under-18 Craven Week in 2016, where he was spotted and scouted into the SA Rugby Sevens Academy - says the opportunity has been well worth the wait.
“I have worked hard to get to this point,” Makata said.
“Playing in the Academy team in tournaments in Dubai and South America made me realise that I want this very badly. Now I am here and I need to make the best of this wonderful opportunity.”
He also played for the Western Province U19 on the wing in 2017, and now he’s looking forward to the competition that awaits in Pool D against Japan, Chile and England.
“I have a role in the team and I know what is expected of me. The reward for me will be to justify the confidence the coach has shown in me by contributing to the team effort.”
Ndhlovu was equally pleased to be a part of a Blitzbok out for in transition phase.
The winger was named the Sharks U21 Player of the Year last season, but picked up a hamstring injury prior to the Hamilton and Sydney events.
And now he has the chance to build on experience he gained in Hong Kong and Paris last year.
“The attention to detail is also important because it teaches one a lot of small aspects that are essential to be successful. I can’t wait to go out and play.
“My aim is to contribute and to make sure the guys can count on me when they need me.”@WynonaLouw