A few Springbok Sevens players arrived in Singapore on Monday on their maiden voyage to the HSBC Singapore Sevens and even for some of the more experienced players, April 2019 is still fresh in their memories, even though it was two years ago.
That was the last time the popular tournament at the National Stadium took place, and very few of the players have forgotten the memorable ending to that tournament, as the Blitzboks came back from being 19-0 down in the final against Fiji to clinch victory by one point, 20-19.
Springbok Sevens skipper, Siviwe Soyizwapi, certainly recalls that match – as well as a number of other familiar surroundings in Singapore – with a huge smile.
“I was not part of that match as I got injured in the semi-final against the USA and could not play against Fiji in the final,” he recalls.
“It is a bittersweet memory as such, as one always wants to be on the field, especially in a final like that – those are the games you dream of and train for. That said, it was still wonderful to be part of the win, even though I was on the side of the field and not on it with the boys.”
Two years is a long time, but Soyizwapi reckons is does not feel that long ago since they played in the humidity of Singapore.
“A lot of the surroundings are the same, the humidity, the friendly hosts around you, the amazing facilities,” he said.
“No wonder this was always one of the favourite destinations for us as a team and the fact that the result went our way last time, made it even more so.”
Reflection is good, but will not help this weekend, where Canada, Kenya and the USA await the Blitzboks in Pool A – not even if you are on the second-best winning streak ever in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series history.
“We cannot expect anything coming our way that we are not prepared to work for, it is as simple as that,” explained Soyizwapi.
“We have been on the winning side in 34 matches, but that is something of the past. It was also something we had to address, as it is all over the media and many questions on the topic reflect that fact.
“So, there was no way we wanted it to become an elephant in the room for us. It might be a big focus out there, but it is not our focus. We spoke about it and then put it aside and I am confident that it will not be an issue this weekend.”
For Soyizwapi and the rest of his Blitzbok team-mates, it was all about adapting to the new time zones, humidity and getting their mindset ready for their first game on the opening day of the tournament.
“We love to be challenged and being put out of our comfort zones, this is what makes us better as people and as a team,” he said.
“For that reason, I was quite pleased to see how we adapted already with regards to the time zone difference and the heat and what effort the guys are showing in training since arrival. It is good to see that we are embracing those challenges, there were no excuses and we hit the ground running.”
Blitzbok fixtures – Saturday, 9 April (SA time)