CAPE TOWN - A good start at the Rugby World Cup Sevens is absolutely crucial, but Springbok Sevens skipper Philip Snyman believes they can go all the way in San Francisco this weekend. Winning the World Cup would cap an almost perfect season for the Blitzboks.
They recently won their third World Sevens Series title when they lifted the cup in Paris to make it back-to-back series titles. And after missing out on Commonwealth glory on Australia’s Gold Coast, the motivation should be high to win gold in the USA this weekend. And no one will be more keen to win World Cup gold than Snyman himself.
If you look at the three-time World Series winner's resume, there’s probably no better person to lead coach Neil Powell’s team in what will be a straight knock-out competition. The 31-year-old Sevens man is the only Blitzbok with World Cup experience (the others who have played in the spectacle before are injured). In fact, it will be Snyman’s third World Cup, so there’s no doubt that he’ll be looking to make it a case of “third time lucky”.
Snyman represented South Africa at the 2009 World Cup in Dubai and again in 2013 in Russia, and on both occasions they were knocked out in the Cup quarter-finals. And after preparations in Johannesburg and Mossel Bay, Snyman said they are now looking forward to putting in a final week of training in San Francisco after arriving in the northern-California city on Sunday afternoon.
“The last couple of weeks have been interesting after winning the World Series, coming back and getting all the support from the fans, friends and family back home. Then it was time to shift the focus to the preparation again. Now it’s time to go over and do the final prep in San Francisco,” Snyman said.
“We have high expectations, I believe we can go all the way. But we need to get our mindset right. We need to fire from the get-go and get a perfect start. It’s knock-out rounds so we need to be up for it right from the start, and that’s exactly our approach to this. We can’t focus on anybody else, we just need to go out there, do what we can and at the same time enjoy ourselves on the pitch.”
The fact that the Blitzboks had a few close calls in Paris before winning the final in dramatic fashion should, in a weird way, have equipped the team for the high-pressure situation they will be in right from the start in San Francisco. They play their first match of the World Cup on Friday night (6.15 am SA time on Saturday morning) against either Ireland or Chile (12.35 am SA time on Saturday morning), and if they lose, they are immediately out of contention.
But if there is anything the Blitzboks have showed this year, especially in the World Sevens Series, it’s that they can soak up pressure. And, as Snyman said, they will have to do it from the get-go on Saturday. Imagine if the Blitzboks win the World Cup. Not only will it be their first one ever, but it will come after winning back-to-back World Series titles. What an achievement that would be.
Given their injury situation, it could be tough. But like Snyman said, they have high expectations, and so do all their fans. So, if the Blitzboks manage to get that perfect start, we just might see history being made. And it would surely be deserved.