‘Hurt’ of previous season pushing Blitzboks to glory in Dubai

The Blitzboks’ Impi Visser goes on the run in a Sevens tournament.

Impi Visser believes the Blitzboks will bounce back from the annus horribilis they suffered in 2022-23, starting with the opening World Sevens Series tournament in Dubai this weekend. | BackpagePix

Published Nov 30, 2023


There will be no escaping the many great disappointments the Blitzboks have suffered in recent months, but it will be those feelings of despair that will propel the team back to where they belong – at the top – if Impi Visser is to be believed.

The Springbok Sevens team had some truly horrible results on the World Sevens Series circuit last season that left fans, pundits and players all dispirited.

The Blitzboks finishing an unacceptable seventh in the standings, which was further compounded by an inability to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games automatically – and then after that, through Africa, where they shockingly lost to Kenya.

A repechage awaits them later next year – one final chance to still qualify for the 2024 Games – but there is no guarantee that the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) will authorise their participation in Paris, even if they were to win that match.

So, much then hinges on how well they will fare when the 2023-24 World Sevens Series kicks off this weekend in Dubai.

Do well in the coming months, starting on Saturday, and their Olympic dreams might still become a reality.

But falter and fail as they did during the last campaign, and no last-gasp qualification will convince any committee that it is a good idea to send them to the showpiece event in July next year.

Already, history is against them in that decision-making process.

The Blitzboks go into the Dubai tournament as the defending champions, but according to Visser, the catastrophic fall from grace they have suffered recently will be the true motivator when they kick off their season against Samoa on Saturday.

“For our squad, Dubai has good memories,” Visser, who will be playing in his 33rd tournament, said yesterday.

“This will be my seventh appearance at the tournament, first with the Sevens Academy and later as a Blitzbok player on the World Series, with a couple of wins included.

“Many of us made our debuts here. Handing out training jerseys to our two uncapped players, Quewin Nortje and Katlego Letebele, at training reminded many of us how special this jersey and journey is, and that we did not always do the jersey proud last season.

“That hurt, and will make us determined to use this opportunity to rectify that.”

Samoa first up, however, will present a real banana skin for the Blitzboks in Pool A, which also includes defending series champions New Zealand and Canada.

Such was the inconsistency of the Blitzboks last term, that they could well beat Samoa but come undone against both New Zealand and Canada.

Meanwhile, the SA Sevens women’s team will face also face powerhouses New Zealand – who are also the defending series champions – on Saturday morning.

There is little hope that they will go deep into the tournament as their group also includes Fiji and Great Britain, but their objectives will be different – improvement across the board and contesting throughout a match will be regarded as victories for the team, as SA Rugby continue to build the women’s game in the country.