Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman has announced his retirement from all rugby following a career-ending back injury.
The 32-year-old three-time HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champion ends his international career for the Blitzboks as South Africa’s most successful captain, leading his country to two World Series crowns and a bronze medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018.
Snyman, who debuted for the Blitzboks in 2008 and was part of the historic squad who won their first World Series title that season, also was an Olympic Games bronze medallist in 2016.
In all, Snyman played in 62 World Series tournaments and 276 matches for the team, scoring 69 tries and 15 conversions for a total of 376 points, while he captained the side in 28 tournaments. He represented South Africa at the Rugby World Cups in Dubai (2008), Moscow (2013) and San Francisco (2018), making him the only Blitzbok to play at three RWC7s tournaments.
SA Rugby President Mr Mark Alexander wished Snyman well in his future endeavours and said the player earned every accolade, trophy and medal that came his way.
“Philip’s ability to bring the best of out the Blitzboks was only one of his wonderful strengths as a captain,” said Mr Alexander.
“Under his leadership, the Blitzboks always played until the final whistle and his humility in his captaincy was always a hallmark of him as a leader.”
Mr Alexander thanked Snyman for his contributions to South African rugby over more than a decade: “His record speaks for itself and he can retire with the knowledge that the Blitzboks are in a better place because of his involvement. Thank you, Philip.”
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said it was a privilege and an honour being part of Snyman’s career for so long.
“I played with him and then coached him and in both roles he excelled,” said Powell.
“It was never about himself and our system benefitted tremendously from having someone of Philip’s calibre as a leader and as a player, always available and willing to contribute, often at his own expense. He drove and lived our culture and this team and many players in it are better people because of that.”
Powell said that although Snyman’s career did not end on his own terms, his insistence on seeing the bigger picture will help to ease the blow.
“Philip was a big supporter of developing a leadership group in the squad and mentoring and helping those identified as future leaders and both of us are comfortable knowing that we expanded that leadership base to the benefit of the squad,” said Powell.
Snyman said it was a bittersweet emotion when he heard that it is all over.
“It is a reality for any rugby player that his career may be cut short by injury at any given time, and I was blessed in many ways to have played for more than a decade,” said Snyman, who also represented the Toyota Cheetahs in the Vodacom Super Rugby and Currie Cup competitions.
“In a perfect world, one would prefer to end your career on your own terms, but I am not complaining. Rugby brought me so many brilliant memories and afforded me so many opportunities, and my path crossed with such a diverse and wonderful group of people. I will be forever grateful for that.
“Looking back on my career, it is incredibly humbling to realise that the list of individuals, organisations and sponsors that I need to thank could go on and on.
“However, it would only be fitting to start with every person I ever called a teammate. Not only did we celebrate together; we did the hard yards together. Thanks for having my back on and off the field. I can truly call you brothers, said the midfielder turned forward.
“The three coaches who shaped my career – Pine Pienaar, who believed in me before there was much to believe in; Paul Treu, who first believed in me as a sevens player and Neil Powell, who believed in me as a person. Coach Neil – I have the greatest respect for you and will always regard you as a mentor. Thank you.”
Snyman also thanked his family: “To my family: my wife and my daughter, you are my safe haven; and Mom and Dad, thank you for shaping me and affording me the opportunity to pursue rugby as a career.
“A big thank you also to SA Rugby and the entire Springbok Sevens Management staff.”
Snyman concluded: “To every supporter – you are ultimately why we do what we do. I am thankful for the opportunity to have worn the No 2 Springbok Sevens Jersey for more than 60 tournaments and am now returning this jersey for the next player to make his own. Today I am retiring as player with a full heart and no regrets. My gratitude is endless.”