Last season was an annus horribilis for the Springbok Sevens team.
Coach Sandile Ngcobo would not have been satisfied with those outcomes in his first season in charge after replacing the long-serving Neil Powell, who moved on to the Sharks, where he is the director of rugby.
But with a new year comes new possibilities, and that is the positive outlook captain Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi is choosing to adopt ahead of the upcoming Dubai Sevens.
The South Africans have an excellent record in the UAE, having claimed 10 titles, including seven out of the past nine tournaments.
They have clinched the last four in a row, beating Ireland 21-5 in last year’s final, and they will hope to make another winning start to the season on December 2-3, when they will face series champions New Zealand, Samoa and Canada in Pool A.
“It’s definitely a morale-booster having all the wins in Dubai. But to be realistic, we are where we are as a group, and that doesn’t mean that we are not confident for Dubai – we definitely are confident,” Soyizwapi told Independent Media at the “pre-season locker room session” of his sponsor, Under Armour, in Cape Town last week.
“But it’s more of a focus thing, where we merely want to focus on ourselves as a team. There is a lot that we’ve changed already, and there has been growth that we’ve seen – and we just want to work on that growth and just hit that excellence that we are looking for.
“All games are tough on the circuit! We’ve seen how France have grown, and Argentina have done well throughout the season.
“Australia have also been good, and they were actually down in Stellenbosch for a camp and we trained against them.
“Samoa have always been a great team, and they actually won the Cape Town Sevens last year.
“Those are the challenges, we need to see where we are and see if we are in a good space. New Zealand are the champions, and we are looking forward to Dubai.”
Former Eastern Province and Southern Kings fullback, Soyizwapi didn’t shy away from addressing last season’s issues, but felt that the Blitzboks have tackled those problems and found solutions.
“It’s that time of the year again, and when you are a week away from the first tournament, it’s really exciting – a different energy in the team,” the 30-year-old said.
“Last season wasn’t really a great season for us, and having that opportunity again to start a new season and have another opportunity to perform is a blessing.
“That’s a blessing we are looking forward to, and we are really excited to get out there.
“We’ve changed so much already. We’ve had our off-season and pre-season preparation, and now we’re in camp for the new season. We’ve sat down as a group and worked on our culture, which is the foundation and cornerstone of the group.
“I feel like we have a culture that we’ve all bought into, and I really feel that the team are living that out. There is a big unity within the team at the moment.
“Our failures and hardships are really a strength for us, rather than a weakness, because it is something to learn from.
“We use that as good experiences going into the new season.”