Kyle Brown, who has been playing in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for a decade, has grown fond of winning gold and there are only a few tournaments where the Springbok Sevens veteran has been on the top step of the podium.
The HSBC Canada Sevens, which will be hosted at BC Place in Vancouver this weekend, is such a tournament.
In 2016, Brown captained the Blitzboks to the final of the inaugural tournament in the famous Canadian city, where lost to New Zealand. To add insult to injury, Brown picked up a rib injury and he had to stay behind in Vancouver for a couple of days until he was medically fit to travel.
Last year, when the Blitzboks lost the final to England, Brown was a frustrated spectator back home in South Africa, due to a serious knee injury.
So what will make 2018 different? The Blitzboks are without a host of frontline players due to injury and Vodacom Super Rugby duty. In fact, half of the squad members in action this weekend have a combined number of caps that is less than Brown’s 63 tournament appearances.
And unlike in 2016, when Brown only had himself to consider as he spent a few days in Vancouver on his own, he will – along with other senior players – have to guide youngsters Ryan Oosthuizen (five tournaments), Zain Davids (eight), Selvyn Davids (two), Stedman Gans (seven), Marco Labuschagne (one) and Muller du Plessis (one) on how to deliver consistent and competitive performances tournament upon tournament.“I have seen a bit of the city and there is a lot to see, but the best time for sight-seeing would be early this week as the bodies recover from a pretty tough weekend in Las Vegas,” said the former captain.
“But there isn’t a lot of time to relax to be honest – we have a lot of hard work to do before the tournament starts.”
Brown admitted the Blitzboks’ standards are high and that newcomers could find that tough: “Luckily we have some very talented players and they learned valuable lessons last weekend. They were thrown in the deep end and swam pretty strongly.
“As a senior player, you want a new player to find his feet as quickly as possible and improve from there,” said Brown.
Brown, whose last tournament victory with the Blitzboks was last December in Dubai, said that the winning feeling remains the best one.
“We had our chances last weekend, but we have another opportunity this weekend and we need to back-up the positives from last week,” said Brown.
“Mentally, everyone should be keen to play, it is just the physical challenge that will test us. We are certainly in a good spot with regards to the youngsters on the long run and will be a better team because of it this weekend.”
Another stalwart, Branco du Preez, had some reflections too after the team left Las Vegas without a podium place. He feels the junior players have a wonderful opportunity to develop their Blitzboks career this weekend.
“We need to get back to zero, like we always do,” said Du Preez.
“We know our processes and systems work, so we just need to remind ourselves about that.
“The likes of Zain, Stedman and Selvyn should get ample playing opportunities and it will be good for them. The system allows you to express yourself and to enjoy yourself and nothing should be different this weekend,” said Du Preez, who will be playing in his 59th tournament in the World Series.