When Muller du Plessis left the field at BC Place in Vancouver on 9 March 2020, the Springbok Sevens outside back had no idea what was about to hit the world, world sports and indeed, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
On that day, after the bronze final of the HSBC Canada Sevens, the Blitzboks felt despondent after a close 26-19 defeat to Canada. The disappointment stemmed from the fact that they won the HSBC LA Sevens the week before and this time around failed to defend their Vancouver title.
Now, more than 18 months later, Du Plessis and his fellow Blitzboks return to their last battlefield eager to not only get the 2021 World Series underway on Saturday, but also to lay down a marker to the 11 other teams, all of which they will meet again next weekend, when the World Series moves to another Canadian city, Edmonton.
“It is pretty different this time around,” Du Plessis said from Vancouver, where the Blitzboks arrived on Monday after a long-haul flight from Cape Town via Amsterdam and Calgary, and held a first light training session on Tuesday.
“I remember our last visit clearly, as we were in high spirits following our come-from-behind win over Fiji in the Los Angeles final.
“We all love to play in Canada and Vancouver is one of our favourite stops on tour. This time around it is completely different, with all the COVID protocols and testing and the lack of tournaments during the last year.”
The 2020 Vancouver event was the 14th for Du Plessis in the Blitzbok jersey and come Saturday, when they face Mexico, Spain and Kenya in Pool A, the flyer will be as motivated as in his very first tournament.
“It remains a massive honour and privilege to pull that jersey over your head and represent your country alongside such a great group of brothers,” said Du Plessis.
“Nothing will change that. We know what we want to achieve and have a clear plan prepared for this tournament, but it will still be an exciting feeling to get back after so many months.”
Du Plessis was not part of the Olympic squad that placed fifth in Tokyo, but said the disappointment is now behind them.
“I trained with the squad, and I know how the guys felt afterwards,” he said, “but we are determined to start this season well and play to the high standards we know we are capable of.”
Du Plessis has a great strike rate for the Blitzboks, having scored 42 tries in 63 matches, and he is keen to continue with those contributions.
“We have a number of new guys in the team, and we are all excited to see how they go,” he said.
“I am hoping to help bring some calmness and some experience, but also some X- factor to the team. There will be massive energy from all as we are really keen and excited to be able to play sevens again.”