South Africa will look to defend their Cape Town title at the HSBC World Series Sevens over the weekend.
By Oliver Pickup
Cape Town is “the most perfect place on the planet” to host a sevens tournament, according to Kyle Brown, the Blitzboks’ longest-serving skipper.
The 29-year-old, who led the team for five years, relinquished his captaincy after steering South Africa to the bronze medal in the summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, when rugby sevens made its Games debut. Now, with Philip Snyman leading, he is hoping he can help his side to victory this weekend in Cape Town, the second round of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Following last year’s incredible inaugural edition, which Neil Powell’s team won, the 55,000-capacity Cape Town Stadium has been sold out for both Saturday and Sunday’s action – a fact which doesn’t surprise Brown in the slightest. And given that, according to World Rugby, over 16 million people have started following rugby sevens as a result of Olympic inclusion, the prospect of South Africa leading the charge in this pivotal season augurs well for the Blitzboks.
“Cape Town is the natural fit for sevens rugby – not just in South Africa, but in the world,” he told The South African. “It’s perfect: the weather’s awesome; the stadium is situated incredibly well, close to the city centre with a couple of phenomenal beaches just around the corner; and the general vibe around Cape Town in December is wonderful. It lends itself very well to a sevens tournament.”
Last weekend the Blitzboks won the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai, overcoming Olympic and world champions Fiji 26-14 in the final. And with Seabelo Senatla, scorer of 66 Sevens Series tries last term and reigning World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, on flying form – he crossed 11 times in the Middle East – South Africa are favourites to win a fifth consecutive title on home soil.
The 23-year-old Senatla, who will be playing XVs for The Stormers in the New Year, is determined to give the sevens team his all in the three remaining tournaments he will feature in. And whatever happens, he has vowed to stick his hand up for selection ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, in four years time.
“My short-term goal is to contribute as much as a I can to the team, and try to make them be in a better position all the time,” Senatla said to The South African. “I won’t leave sevens entirely; I am going to put myself in a position where I will be in contention for Tokyo 2020. My motivation is to win a different coloured medal than bronze. Next time I want gold.”
The likes of Senatla, who scored a brace in the Cape Town Sevens final 12 months ago when the Blitzboks bettered Argentina 29-14, can inspire youngsters and further grow rugby sevens, in South Africa and across the world – and series title sponsors HSBC are committed to just that, building the game from grassroots level globally.
When asked what pearls of wisdom he would provide to youngsters looking to play sevens, Senatla added: “My advice would be to play Tag Rugby; it teaches you the basics and fundamentals of the game. It’s a wonderful initiative and because it’s touch based, you don’t have any tackling or serious contact. In defence you have to be organised, too, and that discipline helps you a lot in your rugby career.
“You learn about running and passing, and it teaches you to run into space, and not at bodies, which is the greatest skill a rugby player can have. It helps your vision, because you have to create something out of nothing.”
A full-house Cape Town Stadium will be hoping Senatla and his fellow South Africans can continue to make try-scoring opportunities out of nothing, this weekend and beyond.
What time are the Blitzboks playing in Cape Town and everything else you need to know