After failing to qualify automatically for the Olympics and not making it over the qualifier hurdle in Zimbabwe recently, the Springbok Sevens knew they had to reset ahead of the new season.
They conducted some deep introspection where the senior players took the lead, and managed to start the rebranded SVNS Series on a positive note by winning the Dubai opener last weekend.
It was an emotional win for the Blitzboks as they recovered from arguably their toughest season in recent years on the circuit – and the tears flowing from the likes of veterans Justin Geduld, Dewald Human and Selvyn Davids summed up what their performance meant to the squad.
They are part of the leadership core that helped steer the side back to winning ways.
Take the lead
And from Saturday at the Cape Town tournament, they will once again have to take the lead if the team wants to be successful.
The last time they won there was back in 2015, when the tournament was held in the Mother City for the first time.
Geduld this week spoke about what the victory in Dubai meant for the squad and what they hope to gain ahead of the home leg.
“Looking at where we came from (the lows of last season), it was a well-deserved win for the team,” the 30-year-old stalwart said.
“How we struggled. We lost the Olympic qualifier. We had to reset again. Just coming out to Dubai, we gelled together, and everything worked out for us.
“We were working for one another ... each guy put his head out for the others. It was an amazing showcase of brotherhood.
“That was happy tears coming down, and it was an achievement for me to finish the tournament.”
It’s the senior players who will have to guide the squad on Saturday when the Blitzboks face Great Britain (10.50am), USA (2.18pm) and Ireland (7.40pm) in the group stages.
Christie Grobbelaar injury
Pretorius, who made his debut last year, will have the likes of Zain Davids, Impi Visser and Ryan Oosthuizen as guides when he steps out onto the Cape Town Stadium pitch.
“Tiaan has been around for a season or two now, and understands what we want to achieve on the field,” coach Sandile Ngcobo said on Thursday.
“The advantage of having him in the squad, bar his speed, is that he can play either loosehead or hooker, pretty much like Ryan Oosthuizen as well, and that gives us nice options to rotate.
“He is also very good on the ball, and will be a menace at the breakdown when he is on the field.
“Tiaan has been working hard with the rest of the squad in the last couple of months, so he will slot in without a problem.”
The experienced Zain Davids said their focus will be to build on the start they had in Dubai, although there could be more pressure on them.
“Playing at home is always special, in front of our families, friends and supporters. Sometimes it could get a little bit bigger for us. We are not just representing the country, but our families too,” the former Junior Springbok flank said.
“But we should look at it as motivation. We should see it as a privilege to play in our home country, and not as pressure.”
Excellent in Dubai
The Blitzboks were excellent in Dubai, and will hope to get off to a winning start against Great Britain.
“We will approach the tournament the same as in Dubai, although there will be different opponents in our pool,” Ngcobo said.
“We still need to go and stay within the system and execute. We got back to zero for this one, so it’s a fresh start with the knowledge that the things we worked on before the season kicked off will bring rewards if we stay disciplined and focused.”
Forwards: Tiaan Pretorius, Ryan Oosthuizen, Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Katlego Letebele, Masande Mtshali
Backs: Ronald Brown, Selvyn Davids (captain), Dewald Human, Justin Geduld, Shilton van Wyk, Rosko Specman, Quewin Nortjé