CAPE TOWN – “There’s so many levels to this place. What I’ve got the chance to be a part of is something special.”
Those were the words of Blitzbok stalwart Kyle Brown, who yesterday announced his retirement from international Sevens. Brown, of course, would know all about levels.
The 32-year-old has played 69 tournaments for the Springbok Sevens team, where he played in 347 matches and scored 89 tries for a career total of 445 points.
It’s a career to which the word “storied” certainly applies.
Brown made his debut for the Blitzboks in the 2008-09 season in Dubai and has captained the team for a number of seasons, with his last stint as skipper coming in Singapore last year. He was also the leader when the side won a historic first Commonwealth Games in 2014, before bagging bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He went on to be named in the tournament Dream Team afterwards.
He was part of all three Springbok Sevens squads that won the World Rugby Sevens Series - in the 2008-09, 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
Brown became the most capped South African in the World Series when he represented the Blitzboks for the 69th time at the Sydney Sevens earlier this year, moving past the long-standing mark held by Frankie Horne.
That was also his last appearance for the team, and his record has since been broken by Branco du Preez, who played in his 71st tournament in Paris last weekend. But none of those milestones would have been reached had it not been for his coaches, teammates and support from his family, Brown concluded.
“You’ll never do this alone ... you can only get so far alone. We need each other,” Brown said. “There’s so many levels to this place. What I’ve got the chance to be a part of is something special.”
After 11 years with the Blitzboks, Brown has played many roles - from being a fresh-faced rookie more than a decade ago to growing into a stalwart and a veteran who has welcomed many youngsters into the system.
Fast forward from his debut to 2019, and 11 seasons later it doesn’t feel like many moons ago, though.
“When it comes to an end it’s funny because everybody tells you how quickly it sneaks up on you ...and it really does,” Brown said.
“I’ve been very grateful to have so many seasons under my belt in a place like this. If you want to make this home, go ahead and make it home, but make sure that you do it wholeheartedly.”
After a tough season given the departure of a large number of players, Brown is also excited about what the team can achieve going forward.
“We haven’t peaked yet and there’s so many more levels we can go to. You can always improve, you just need to want to,” he said.
The Sevens team’s success has been on an upward curve (they won back-to-back series titles in Paris last year), and one thing that’s been key to their success has been the team culture, Brown said.
“The guys I’ve grown with will remain lifelong friends. There were ups and downs, but the ups will supersede everything,” Brown said.
“We’ve made some incredible friendships. There are very few people you can fault in this system for the people that they are. I don’t know what the filter is ... we just get good people.”@WynonaLouw