Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, called it a humbling day, while Blitzbok captain, Philip Snyman felt it was one of the proudest days of his life. For Springbok Sevens all time points-scoring record holder, Cecil Afrika, it was a dream come true.
Those were some of the reactions from the Blitzboks upon arrival at Cape Town International Airport on Tuesday, amid huge media interest and a couple of hundred fans awaiting the team to touch down from London, where they were crowned HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions at the conclusion of the 2016/17 series.
Sandile Ngcobo, Dewald Human and Marco Labuschagne were absent as they already travelled to France to play for the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in an invitational tournament in Tours.
South Africa’s last and only other World Series win came in 2008/09 when the team also topped the standings. Powell, who was one of the players in that squad, has now become the first person to win it as a coach as well, but he was quick to reflect that feat towards his squad’s achievements.
“It was a pretty amazing season,” said Powell.
“To win five tournaments and play in eight finals was awesome. We have set high standards for ourselves, and although we only play to win, we are really pleased.
“It does reward the massive amount of work put in by the players, management and other stakeholders, such as our sponsors. It was really humbling to see the support at the airport and we really appreciate that.”
Snyman was as proud: “Every time we pull that jersey over our shoulders, we do so for us as a team, as a band of brothers, but also for everyone who support us, in fact, for everyone in South Africa.“We were pretty aware of the support we get whenever or wherever we play, so to be able to bring the trophy back is also the best way possible to say thank you, South Africa,” said Snyman.
Afrika, who has scored 1297 points in his career, said it was a dream come true: “I have been around for almost ten years now and just missed out on the previous series win. Personally I had to overcome a lot of things, including bad injuries, so this feels so good. It is indeed a dream come true for me,” he said.
The team will travel to Free State and Gauteng provinces on Wednesday and Thursday for a roadshow, where a number of school visits and media engagements will take place.
Stats wrap Springbok Sevens 2016/17
1. Branco du Preez 175
2. Cecil Afrika 174
3. Seabelo Senatla 160
4. Siviwe Soyizwapi 145
5. Werner Kok 140
Top try scorers:
1. Seabelo Senatla 32
2. Siviwe Soyizwapi 29
3. Werner Kok 28
4. Cecil Afrika 20
5. Rosko Specman 20
Top tacklers series:
1 Philip Snyman 158
2. Stephen Tomassin (USA) 156
3. Chris Dry 152
4. Werner Kok 145
• Chris Dry, Branco du Preez, Werner Kok, Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage and Philip Snyman played in all 10 tournaments.
• Other players who featured during the season are: Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Kyle Brown, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Zain Davids, Stedman Gans, and Tim Agaba.
• The Springboks finished the season with a points differential of +831. Next up were Fiji +703 and England +452.
• South Africa made the most tackles during the series (1174 in 60 matches at an average of 19.6 per match), followed by Australia and Australia (17.8 per match).
• The Blitzboks also scored the second most tries and points (225, 1403), with Fiji (245, 1567) topping the list.