Rosko Specman’s return to Sevens is a boost on and off the field as he mentors next generation

Rosko Specman’s return to Sevens is a boost on and off the field as he mentors next generation
Rosko Specman during the South African men's national Sevens rugby team training session at Markotter Stadium on 13 November 2023 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

Specman will play his 31st World Series tournament this weekend in Dubai as he picks up his Sevens career after a five-year hiatus in the 15s wilderness.

Having spent the past five years representing nearly every rugby union in South Africa, the flying Rosko Specman has decided to head back to the version of the game that made him an international star – Sevens.

But this time it’s a bit different for the 34-year-old. He’s not the new kid on the block any more; he’s the most senior member of a young side.

Specman has embraced his role and sees himself as a mentor to those coming through the Sevens doors.

Quewin Nortje, who represented the Junior Springboks during their bronze-place showing at the Under-2o Championship this year, is one of those Specman has taken under his wing.

“My way of looking at Sevens has changed. I’m more of a mentor for the younger players,” Specman said.

“[Nortje] is very young, he’s just left school, so I’m there to help him.

“I just want to make sure that when I leave that jersey, it’s in a good space for him to continue forward … that’s my role.”

Both players have been selected for the Blitzboks’ first series of the year in Dubai this weekend. It will be the first time in nearly five years that Specman dons the green Blitzbok jersey, while it will be the first time for Nortje.

It was a little bit tough in the beginning but now the body’s ready and now it’s just time for Specmagic, baby.

The Blitzboks had a slow start under the tutelage of coach Sandile Ngcobo last season – in his first season in charge since Neil Powell took up the role of director of rugby at the Sharks – finishing seventh overall on the overall Sevens Series standings last season.

But the side has a terrific record in Dubai, having claimed gold medals on 10 occasions – four more than anyone else.

“There are many South Africa supporters there which makes it feel like a home tournament,” Specman said.

“It’s also the first tournament of the season so everyone’s energy is there and it’s an opportunity to stay in the team because the following weekend is Cape Town [Sevens].”

Rosko Specman

Rosko Specman during the national Sevens team training session at Markotter Stadium in Stellenbosch on 21 November 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

Getting in shape

Despite having played more than 150 matches and 30 tournaments, and having scored 76 tries for the Springbok Sevens, getting back into Sevens shape took more than a month for the speedster.

“The adjustment for me in the first month was tough,” Specman said. “From 15s to Sevens, I had to shape my body.

“Here my body must be good so that it can move. In 15s it’s okay because your body can rest.

“So far I’ve learnt a lot and the more I can learn, the more I can get better. It was a little bit tough in the beginning but now the body’s ready and now it’s just time for Specmagic, baby.

Rosko Specman

Rosko Specman of the Griquas during a Currie Cup match against the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on 24 March 2023. (Photo: Dirk Kotze / Gallo Images)

“I’m older but I still feel like I can do the thing. While I can still do the thing, I’m still enjoying rugby, and what an honour it is to be back.”

Ngcobo explained to Daily Maverick that in Sevens athletes need to be a lot leaner than in 15s in order to excel.

“We’re really happy to have him fit. We had to get him fit again,” Ngcobo said. “There’s a massive difference between Sevens conditioning and 15s conditioning. It takes quite some time [to get someone fit].

He’s an incredible finisher, he’s a utility player. For us he will play wing and playmaker.

“You traditionally gain a lot of weight and put on muscle mass to tackle bigger guys [in 15s].

“It’s a different sport, slightly slower and more physically demanding [whereas] in Sevens you need to be sharp, you need to be on your toes and you need to be a little bit leaner than what you would be in 15s.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rosko Specman enjoying the journey but Sevens is calling next season

“From a conditioning point of view we had to get [Specman] confident, fast and sharp again.

“That’s what’s required from the type of player he is and his role in the team.”

Ngcobo also acknowledged the X-factor that Specman brings to a team that lacked game-breakers last season.

“Rosko is a game-changer,” the coach said. “Not only does he know what we’re about as a system, where we’re trying to go, but Rosko is also the spice in any team that he enters.

“He’s an incredible finisher, he’s a utility player. For us he will play wing and playmaker.” DM


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