Sport

SEVENS SERIES

Blitzboks look to shake off Cape Town hoodoo and repay loyal support

Blitzboks look to shake off Cape Town hoodoo and repay loyal support
Justin Geduld during a Springbok Sevens training session at Markotter Stadium in Stellenbosch on 21 November 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

Despite all their success, the Springbok Sevens have not won in Cape Town in eight years — a situation they are ready to put right.

The Cape Town Sevens seemed to have lost some of its trademark sizzle last year.

It came a mere three months after the Sevens World Cup was held at the same venue, Cape Town Stadium, where a record 105,000 spectators attended the three-day spectacle.

Despite the huge number of people entering through the turnstiles, there were several complaints about the event, with 24 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams of varying levels of pedigree taking part.

The Blitzboks’ seventh-place finish was also less than encouraging for fans.

But after a year of inaction at home – instead of only three months – the appetite for the game seems to have grown significantly with local support.

About 70% of the available tickets have already been sold for the Cape Town Sevens with the event days away.

Blitzboks

Fans at a match between New Zealand and South Africa during the Sevens tournament in Dubai on 2 December 2023. (Photo: Martin Dokoupil / Getty Images)

Turning over a new leaf

The Blitzboks will be looking to reward their loyal support this weekend. The side last won a home Sevens leg in 2015, when it was hosted in the Mother City for the first time.

The fleet-footed side have reached the final in four of the five subsequent tournaments in Cape Town — two were cancelled, in 2020 and 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s been eight years since their last win at home. Only Rosko Specman and Justin Geduld, who played in that star-studded side, are still involved now.

The 2015 side contained double Rugby World Cup winners Kwagga Smith and Cheslin Kolbe alongside former Springboks Francois Hougaard and Juan de Jong, with flyer and all-time leading Blitzbok try-scorer Seabelo Senatla also involved.

It was a bright highlight for Geduld who has had very few over the past few years, owing to a lingering knee injury. His knee eventually had to be reconstructed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 – the glory, the heartbreak and the fans

Another sparkling peak came in Dubai last week when the Blitzboks claimed their fifth title in the desert and 11th overall.

After the final whistle and the score read 12-7 to South Africa over Argentina, an emotional Geduld fell to his knees as tears started flowing.

“I just had this emotion, and I could not quite understand why,” Geduld said, who has only played eight tournaments since 2020.

Justin Geduld of South Africa tackles Moses Leo of New Zealand during their Sevens clash in Dubai on 2 December 2023. (Photo: Martin Dokoupil / Getty Images)

“I had some thoughts afterwards and I think it was just a relief [to know] that we still have what it takes to win tournaments.

“I knew how hard we worked to get back to this form where we can compete against anybody and on a personal level, how desperately I wanted to be this competitive again.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: How a full-time, professional set-up has led to an improved Springbok Women’s Sevens side

The Blitzboks endured a horrid last season, placing seventh overall – their worst finish in more than 10 seasons.

“[The win] was such a relief for me,” Geduld said. “The fact that we really played well as a team and found that Blitzbok mojo again was awesome and for me, still being fit and standing after such a tough tournament, was just an emotional relief.

“It is really good to be back playing Sevens at this level again for me personally, but more importantly, for the team to be winning at that level again after the tough time we had, was equally pleasing.”

South Africa fans cheer the Blitzboks in the Sevens final against Argentina in Dubai on 3 December 2023. (Photo: Martin Dokoupil / Getty Images)

Tough pool

The Springbok Sevens side are in a tough pool with Great Britain, the USA and Ireland on opening day on Saturday.

They open their campaign at 10.50am against Great Britain, and will also close proceedings on the first day when they take on Ireland at 7.34pm.

The Springbok Women’s Sevens side face off against France, Canada and the USA on day one. They will have their work cut out for them against these hardened sides, who have been on the circuit permanently, while the Bok Women only joined this season as a core side. DM

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