WORLD SEVENS SERIES: The Hamilton post-mortem earlier this week was brutal, but honest and much-needed for the Springbok Sevens team, and according to BlitzBok captain Siviwe Soyizwapi, it will result in a positive response when they take to the Allianz Stadium pitch on Friday in the Sydney Sevens.
“We can look each other in the eye again after that, as everybody owned up when we did that post-tournament analysis,” said Soyizwapi.
“We dissected what happened in Hamilton, took accountability and accepted responsibility. The players had to take it on the chin; it was clear in the reviews that we neglected the system and that the mistakes we made were of our own doing.
“Once we accepted that, we could look each other in the eye again and now we can have a positive outlook coming into Sydney.”
They accepted the guidance from their coaching staff, Sandile Ngcobo and Philip Snyman, on what needs to be done better, admitted Soyizwapi, who has scored 139 tries in 232 matches for the men in green and gold: “The reality is our coaches have been there before and they know what they are talking about when a regroup is needed. It was important to own up to the mistakes and then put it behind you.”
The veteran of 44 World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments feels comments about the size of his teammates are misplaced.
“We may not be the biggest team physically, but that has always been the case,” said Soyizwapi.
“Some of the so-called smaller players represented this team to great heights in the past and the ones currently here will be no different. It is the size of your heart that counts, and we have to show that this weekend.”
Soyizwapi is transitioning into the forwards, which meant less game time than when he was playing on the wing and stayed on the field most of the time.
“It is something I need to get used to, but I don’t mind doing,” he said.
“We have some good leaders in the squad, so when I am not on the field they take over. With Selvyn (Davids) being replaced by James (Murphy) from last weekend, it means I will be moving back to the wing for this tournament, so I will probably have more time on the field.”
Whether he is playing or not, the outlook from the captain remains the same: “Whatever the team on the field look like, they need to represent the badge and express the culture of the squad. We need to show that from the very first match against Kenya and sustain that until the very last game we play.”
The men’s Series has seen four different gold medal winners (Argentina, Australia, Samoa and South Africa) in the four rounds to date while New Zealand, Australia and the USA have claimed all the medals in the first three rounds of the women’s competition.
The stakes couldn’t be higher at the bottom end of the men’s Series this season as well. Following the penultimate event in Toulouse, the 15th ranked team will be relegated to the 2024 Sevens Challenger Series while the 12th through 14th ranked teams will face off against the Sevens Challenger Series 2023 winner for the 12th and final position on the 2024 Series.
In the men’s tournament in Sydney, Pool A sees Hamilton winners Argentina drawn with hosts Australia, Great Britain and Canada. Pool B is led by current Series leaders New Zealand, together with South Africa, Kenya and Uruguay. USA, Ireland, Samoa and Spain will compete in Pool C. Double Olympic champions Fiji will be looking to return to form and are in Pool D with France, invitational side Tonga and Japan.
*The women’s pools see New Zealand paired with Japan, France and invitational side Papua New Guinea in Pool A. USA head a strong looking Pool B that includes Great Britain, Fiji and Canada. Hosts Australia are in Pool C together with Ireland, Spain and Brazil.
(Kick-off time is local – GMT plus 11 hours)
Friday, January 27:
Ireland v Samoa – 14.22
USA v Spain – 14.44
South Africa v Kenya – 15.06
New Zealand v Uruguay – 15.28
Fiji v Tonga – 3.50pm
France v Japan – 16.12
Australia v Great Britain – 16.34
Argentina v Canada – 16.56
Saturday, January 28:
Ireland v Spain – 09.00
USA v Samoa – 09.22
South Africa v Uruguay – 09.44
New Zealand v Kenya – 10.06
Fiji v Japan – 10.28
France v Tonga – 10.50am
Australia v Canada – 11.12
Argentina v Great Britain – 11.34
Samoa v Spain – 14.43
USA v Ireland – 15.05
Kenya v Uruguay – 15.27
New Zealand v South Africa – 3.49pm
Tonga v Japan – 11.16
France v Fiji – 16.33
Great Britain v Canada – 4.55pm
Argentina v Australia – 17.17