PRETORIA – The trials and tribulations that the Springboks Sevens side have endured during their back-to-back World Series triumph seasons could just be the ace up their sleeves ahead of the Sevens Rugby World Cup next month.
Having shocked the world and themselves by clinching the Series title in dramatic style in the last tournament in Paris to successfully defend their world crown, Blitzbokke captain Philip Snyman believes that the hardships of the season place them in a better position than most teams as title contenders for the Melrose Cup in San Francisco next month.
After seeing many of their experienced stars suffer season-ending injuries, losing their Commonwealth Games title and only winning two tournaments in the season, Snyman thinks they have now mastered the art of thriving in adversity and still being able to be successful. This was the case when they won the Paris tournament to win the World Series after favourites Fiji had been dumped out in the quarter-finals.
While Fiji have nobody but themselves to blame for gifting the South Africans the world series, the Blitzboks also made it difficult for themselves as they lost their pool match against Scotland, won at the death against Russia and were pushed into extra time by Spain in the quarter-finals before marching with authority to the tournament win and ultimately World Series honours.
“There are many lessons we have learnt throughout the season and especially things that have happened in the past. That citing of Kyle (Brown) in the previous World Cup, our discipline is going to be vital in the short tournament and the format is also different. It is knockout stages from the get-go and basically we start off with the quarter-finals.
So we will need to be up for it and there are no easy games and (we've learnt) a valuable lesson that you can’t underestimate any team. It showed for us in the last tournament against Spain, Russia and Scotland that any team can beat any team on any given day,” said Snyman in Johannesburg at the squad’s week-long training camp.
The Blitzboks have previously struggled to assert their authority and dominance in once off tournaments like the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, but Snyman feels that the mental toughness and resilience they showed in becoming world champions could be the secret to their winning their maiden Melrose Cup.
With the World Cup format altered to take the shape of a knockout tournament from the beginning, the Blitzboks cannot afford to stumble from the startm which will be a tricky match between the winner of the Ireland-Chile clash.
“We will most likely get Ireland or Chile and Ireland showed in the last two tournaments that they can beat any team... they managed to beat England and Australia. Day one, game one we need to go out guns blazing and be ready for that,” Snyman said.
“We need to realise that we are only going to get a limited amount of opportunities and I think it is a mental thing; you need to be switched on before every game.
“When you go into a game it is basically do or die so we will need to be up for it. We believe if we can play the rugby that we can and use our opportunities as a good defensive side and starve teams of the ball then we can do well.”
The Blitzboks received a massive boost in the camp with stars Chris Dry and Rosko Specman part of the 16-man squad which will later be trimmed down to 12 for the World Cup.
Snyman says the duo bring a lot of energy to the camp.
“It was quite a short rest, a week off (from winning the World Series) and we went straight back into it. I think the management have a plan. To have guys like Chris Dry and Rosko Specman back at training really brings energy and fire and I believe the energy will be there throughout this camp,” added Snyman.