The team arrived in Toulouse for the penultimate tournament of the current World Series, the HSBC France Sevens, and according to Blitzbok assistant coach Philip Snyman, the presence of Justin Geduld, Dewald Human, Ronald Brown, Shilton van Wyk and James Murphy has not only increased the tally of tournament caps in the squad, but also the overall playing experience.
Snyman, himself a former Blitzbok captain and grizzled veteran of the World Series, said they are not expecting miracles from the five, but all are bringing some confidence into the squad, rocked by injuries that forced the use of 28 players during the series, including half a dozen debutants.
“We have a lot of playmakers back and that changes a lot of things,” said Snyman.
“The reality is that they were out of action for a while and in Justin's case, more than a year, so one must be realistic about their comebacks. What I can say, they trained well, and I think we will see a lot of our outside backs in space this weekend.
“Shilton van Wyk and Mfundo Ndhlovu will enjoy the space for sure. The nice feedback from our forwards was that with all the playmakers back, they can now solely focus on their roles of being physical, running hard lines and being effective at the breakdown.
“We did tweak our defensive approach slightly back in Stellenbosch to curb the strengths of our opponents, but also because we have some new personnel in the squad that add a different dimension.”
Friday’s opponents, France and Fiji, are similar in many ways, Snyman explained: “They play a very unstructured and expansive game with lots of offloads, so you need to force them into some structure to break their stride. If we manage that, we will get positives results.”
The Blitzboks face the USA on Saturday morning in their final pool game and Snyman said they like to keep the ball: “We need to disrupt them at the breakdown by making sure our first arriving player is effective when getting there in slowing the ball down or turn it over.
“We are looking for a positive turnover differential this weekend as that will enable us to counter and get ball in hand. We know we are very effective with ball in hand,” Snyman added.
Most of the preparation was done in Stellenbosch, but according to Snyman, the two sessions in Toulouse proved valuable so far.
"We did have a session on Monday in sunshine and that went really well, then with some rain on Tuesday, which prepared us well for the weekend,” he said.
“The wet weather also made us realise that kicks in behind our opponents might come in play when we play in rainy conditions on the weekend.”
Human, who last played five months ago, is one of the characters in the squad and like to contribute to the team’s ‘vibe and energy’ off the field, but he is also keen to provide that on the field of play.
“It is wonderful to be back – rehab can be a dark and lonely place at times, so to be fit again and around the guys really makes it worthwhile,” said Human, who was part of tournament-winning squad France in in 2017 and 2018, albeit played in Paris back then.
“We have a job to do, and I just want to make sure I bring my bit. It was not nice to be out injured and see the guys battling a bit in tournaments. The reality is that a couple of the playmakers are back fit, and we feed off each other and give each other confidence.
“The fact that some of us did not play for a while is cancelled out by the way we understand and interact with each other, I believe as that takes the pressure of any individual coming back, me included.”