Cape Town – Just a few years ago, Shilton van Wyk was playing for the Boland Cavaliers in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge – and now he’s making the world sit up and take notice.
The 22-year-old speedster, who hails from Saldanha Bay on the Cape west coast, was chosen as the Player of the Final in Saturday night’s thrilling victory for the Blitzboks in the Dubai Sevens title decider against Ireland.
Van Wyk got the ball rolling with a terrific touchdown when he stepped and scythed through the Irish defence to open the scoring.
And, as if that was not enough, he produced an even better try as he danced past a few more hapless defenders to put the South Africans well on their way to a fourth consecutive Dubai title.
Springbok Sevens captain Siviwe Soyizwapi essentially finished the job when he pounced on a long Ireland pass to intercept the ball and race away to make it 21-0 – with Van Wyk’s old Boland teammate Ricardo Duarttee, who also enjoyed a memorable debut tournament, slotting all three conversions.
Jack Kelly got a consolation five-pointer for the Irish in the second half, but the South Africans maintained their intensity on defence throughout to complete a tremendous turnaround from their disappointing outing at the Hong Kong Sevens last month, where they won just once in five matches.
“We came out today with a plan and we executed, like the coaches asked of us. I just want to tell the people at home, thank you very much for your support. It means a lot to us, and we appreciate your support,” Van Wyk told World Rugby afterwards.
The Blitzboks had lost the Dubai opener against Great Britain 14-5, but then beat Kenya 27-12, World Sevens Series champions Australia (19-12), Samoa (24-19), New Zealand (26-19) and Ireland (21-5) to successfully defend the title they had won in 2019 and twice last year.
“We had a hard chat after our defeat in the first round against Great Britain,” skipper Soyizwapi said.
“There are so many good sides in the World Series, and you need to be sharp in every match. We decided to get stuck in, and that delivered some fantastic performances. I am really proud of the squad and everyone involved.”
For new coach Sandile Ngcobo, it was an unforgettable experience to see the progress of his team from Hong Kong to Dubai, and now they will head into next weekend’s Cape Town Sevens with great confidence.
“I can’t find the perfect words to express how I feel, and what this means for our system,” Ngcobo said.
“I just know that it’s just an incredible effort from the boys… I’m just so hard on them, and they really hung in there and they showed fight in the camp that we had.”
For the Cape Town Sevens tournament at the Cape Town Stadium, which starts on Friday, the Blitzboks have been drawn in Pool A alongside France, Fiji and Canada.
Dubai Cup Final Points-Scorers
South Africa 21 – Tries: Shilton van Wyk (2), Siviwe Soyizwapi. Conversions: Ricardo Duarttee (3).
Ireland 5 – Try: Jack Kelly.
Cape Town Sevens Draw
Pool A: South Africa, France, Fiji, Canada
Pool B: Ireland, Samoa, Uruguay, Japan
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Kenya, Spain
Pool D: USA, Australia, Great Britain, Uganda