They are still playing with the same objectives in mind, so there’s no reason why the Blitzboks Sevens team will take anything for granted when the HSBC London Sevens kicks off at Twickenham on Saturday.
That is the opinion of two of the Blitzboks’ stalwarts, Ruhan Nel and Siviwe Soyizwapi, as the South Africans prepare for the 10th and final tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Series in London.
The Blitzboks have clinched the overall series title already by winning last weekend’s HSBC Paris Sevens, but they are still driven by desire and team values, says Nel, who celebrated his 26th birthday in England’s capital on Wednesday.
‘We are still playing for what that Springbok on the chest represents,’ said Nel. ‘That means 100% dedication and commitment, 100% of the time. Nothing has changed because we won the series, we are still the same team who want to make the country proud and do the system justice.’
According to Nel, who was one of the leading tacklers in Paris, the team structure allows players to be at their best. ‘For me to make those tackles it meant that I felt my back was covered and that is what we are hoping to do as a team,’ explained Nel, who is in line to play in his 100th match for the Blitzboks in London.
‘Everyone will be stepped or beaten, but knowing there will be someone to back you up, gives the confidence to go in hard.’
The winger missed last year’s London tournament due to a shoulder injury and is pretty keen to enjoy the Twickenham experience. ‘The feeling in camp is good. The first couple of days are generally a bit slower, as recovery takes priority and we will pick up the intensity as the tournament gets closer,’ said Nel.
‘The pressure has been relieved a bit knowing that we have won the overall series, but we still want to finish well, as that was one of our objectives from the start. The guys are in a good space now.’
Soyizwapi, known as ‘Shakes’ by his teammates, agreed with Nel: ‘Everyone in the squad is feeling positive and is in a good head space at the moment.
‘After that great tournament in Paris where we improved game by game and then clinched the title and the overall series, the guys are really feeling good. Having said that, it will not mean anything come this weekend. We will have to start over again and again play to the standards we have set.’
Soyizwapi, a product of the SA Rugby Academy in the Eastern Cape, is pretty aware that the Blitzboks will have a target on their backs as the new champions. ‘We will have a very tough pool,’ said Soyizwapi, who has scored 25 tries during the season.
‘Kenya, Wales and the USA are all class teams and they will not make it easy for us. It will be a testing day Saturday, as there are no easy games out there anymore and those three are all tough opponents. We will have to stick to our process and structures to be successful.’
Picture of Nel and Soyizwapi courtesy of Getty Images