CAPE TOWN – The 2017 Wellington Sevens was a special one for the Blitzboks.
Not only did they win the New Zealand leg for only the second time, but the way in which they did it almost thumped the well-deserved victory itself.
The Wellington Regional Stadium saw the Springbok Sevens unit double their reason to celebrate - they dismantled the then-defending series champions, Fiji, 26-5 in the final after also humbling them in the pool stages, while Seabelo Senatla, who was also named Player of the Final, broke the South African Sevens all-time try-scoring record set by Fabian Juries (179 tries).
But before the proud podium moments and the influx of congratulations, it was the Blitzboks’ devastating form that really caught the eye.
Their attack was on another level and their defence also did more than its part in guarding their tryline, especially against the Pacific Islanders.
Coach Neil Powell and his side had gone into the event with confidence and momentum that could certainly be described as sufficient after winning the Dubai leg and making it to the Cape Town final. They went into the weekend in Wellington as log leaders.
New Zealand - a venue which had perhaps been a rather unkind one to the South Africans in the past - had finally started to look different (they also finished runners-up in Wellington in 2014 and 2016).
This time, though, things look a bit different.
Firstly, the squad looks very different to the one that ruled in Wellington in 2017. Also, the Blitzboks are going into the Hamilton date in fifth spot on the standings.
Their characteristically superior defence and intelligent attack also haven’t been as familiar or consistent.
But there have also been positives.
Things have started to look better the more they have played together, and the leap from a sixth-place finish in Dubai to third spot in Cape Town is testament to that. And more improvement in Hamilton could come with some pleasing results.
So, how will things go this weekend? Last week, Powell said that they have addressed the issues - like defensive roles, especially from set-piece -which plagued them in the first two tournaments.
He also said there will be no excuses from his side (they’ve nicknamed the Hamilton leg the “no excuses” tournament)... combating 11 time zones and everything that comes with it shouldn’t be used as an excuse by his relatively young team to not perform, according to Powell.
The Blitzboks chief also said he just wants his charges to improve, not necessarily in terms of results, but more in terms of play.
Only time will tell how the Springbok Sevens side will go.
Maybe they’ll keep improving and crack into the final. Maybe they’ll even win it and make it three New Zealand triumphs this weekend. Nobody knows.
But going into the challenge with “no excuses” and a desire to improve is certainly a good start.