Kyle Brown (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Whilst it is anything but an automatic ticket to a lofty spot on the Rio Olympics podium, the SA Sevens team should take heart at crunch time on Thursday night (SA time) from their stirring gold medal success at the last major international multi-sport jamboree – the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Different event, different continent … yes.
Nor does anyone need reminding that Olympic gold has more gravitas than it does at the slightly less “global” Commonwealth equivalent.
But in many ways there are also similarities in demands and pressures between the two Sevens tournaments, and the very fact that many of the Blitzboks’ personnel who savoured particularly satisfying glory in Scotland two years ago are braced for the crunch Olympic semi-final against Great Britain (20:00) and hopefully the showpiece game itself is something to give the South African squad a real sense of hope and conviction.
Given that captain Kyle Brown is one of the half-dozen survivors of the Glasgow heroics in the Rio Blitzboks party, he should not pass up the opportunity to remind his latest charges of the gees that powered them to Commonwealth gold.
In some respects, after all, there was arguably even more of a pressure-cooker feel to the Sevens competition in Glasgow – held at the famous Ibrox soccer stadium – given the general rugby-passionate location of the event in Britain with its rich home-unions support base.
A record 171,000 people attended the Sevens there, still a record for the code, which is certainly going to put Rio in the shade from that point of view; there have been plenty of gaps in the stands even at considerably smaller Deodoro Stadium in soccer-crazy Brazil.
That the Blitzboks had the mettle to complete the business in Glasgow wasn’t only down to their ability to cope with the intimidating aspects of such huge audiences.
They also had to deal with the psychological burden associated with New Zealand’s prior greedy monopoly (they are already well out of the 2016 Olympics medals after a nightmarish, injury-jinxed couple of days) of the premier Commonwealth laurel.
The NZ Sevens outfit had swaggered their way to Scotland with gold achieved at every single one of four Games preceding it; Sevens had first entered the Commonwealth radar at the 1998 event.
But they were finally restricted to silver in 2014 as the Blitzboks, who had looked probably the sharpest tools in the tourney shed for its duration, edged a tense final 17-12.
Their three tries in the red-letter occasion were dotted by their flier out wide, Seabelo Senatla (two) and seasoned Cecil Afrika – both of them very much in the mix and in decent form heading into Thursday’s Olympic climax phase.
Apart from the prior-mentioned Brown and those two, others in Rio with giddying memories of Glasgow are Kwagga Smith, Justin Geduld and Werner Kok.
So those six will not be without “how we did it” tales to inspire their newer colleagues as a healthy place on the greater Olympic podium flickers quite tantalisingly …
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