Blitzboks stalwart Ryan Oosthuizen will be completing a personal milestone this weekend at the HSBC NZ Sevens tournament in Hamilton. Oosthuizen is due to compete in his first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in New Zealand, although he has already represented South Africa in 35 tournaments.

He is currently in Hamilton with the Blitzboks where they’re busy preparing for the coming weekend’s NZ edition of the World Series. The fourth turning point of the 2023 season.

Long established as a regular feature in the team, Oosthuizen has played 169 matches to date in his 35 World Series events, scoring 37 tries in the process.

MILESTONE FOR BLITZBOK STALWART

“This is my sixth year with the Springbok Sevens but actually my first time in New Zealand. I’ve been around the block, but personally, this is exciting for me because it’s my first time in New Zealand,” said Oosthuizen from Hamilton on Monday.

South Africa will be aiming to bounce back on Kiwi soil after falling short in their home tournament in Cape Town last month. They finished fourth after a heart-breaking extra time defeat to eventual champions Samoa in the semi-final.

Oosthuizen reckons the knowledge of former Blitzbok skipper Philip Snyman, nowadays the team’s assistant coach, could prove to be valuable for their Australasian tour (they head to Australia next week for the Sydney tournament).

“Fortunately for us, we have someone like Philip on the coaching staff who has the experience of playing many times over here (during his Blitzboks career),” said Snyman. He made his 35th World Series appearance for South Africa along with Zain Davids in Cape Town.

“He told us what to expect from a time zone and sleeping perspective, so we are well prepared in that regard.

Blitzboks stalwart Ryan Oosthuizen
Blitzboks stalwart Ryan Oosthuizen

“The team fell short in Cape Town and while some of the regulars have moved onto fifteens. We did manage to add some exciting young players that we’re looking to test on the circuit,” said Oosthuizen.

“Our immediate goal is to stick to the process and what the coaches want from us.”

NEW BEGINNING FOR JAIDEN BARON

Oosthuizen isn’t the only player who will reach a personal milestone this weekend. The Hamilton tournament will signal the start of his Blitzbok career for newcomer Jaiden Baron.

The former Boland Kavaliers speedster travelled with the Blitzboks to New Zealand. He is due to make his Springbok Sevens debut and he is understandably bursting with pride to represent South Africa.

“I am very excited to be part of the Blitzboks squad and to be honest. The whole experience must still sink in,” said Baron.

“I learned a lot at the SA Sevens ‘A’ squad. But this is a big step up for me and I am really looking forward to the experience. Personally, reality kicked in when we landed in New Zealand.

“Coming from a small village (Port Alfred Hamlet) you can imagine what an opportunity this is for someone like me. I want to represent my village by giving my absolute best for the team.”

South Africa will open the tournament with a Pool D clash against Canada on Saturday 21 January. They will also play against Spain and Argentina later in the day.

Springbok Sevens assistant coach Philip Snyman was pleased, but not smiling, after the Blitzboks’ opening victory at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens on Friday evening.

The home team – behind by 5-7 at half-time – remained calm under pressure, took their chances and ultimately got their campaign off to a winning start with a 17-7 victory over the Canadians in their Pool A clash at DHL Stadium.

Canada started very well and Alex Russell scored the first try of the match, converted by Brock Webster, in the fifth minute.

Moments later, with almost no time left in the first half, Muller du Plessis got one back for the Blitzboks after a good run by Impi Visser, and it was 7-5 at the break.

The Blitzboks took the lead midway through the second half after some individual magic from Shilton van Wyk, who kicked the ball into the Canadian in-goal and followed up to score himself.

The conversion sailed wide but the next kick, the restart, was perfect as it just landed inside the field of play, with the Canadians leaving it to bounce straight into Ryan Oosthuizen’s hands, who raced away untouched for the home team’s third try with less than two minutes left in the match.

Blitzboks player Impi Visser
Blitzboks player Impi Visser

SNYMAN HAPPY WITH BLITZBOKS

“You always want to win when playing in front of this Cape Town crowd and to open the tournament with a win is ideal, so we are not complaining,” said Snyman.

“We did make some errors, but we needed this game to get the euphoria of Dubai out of our heads. One or two of the players will now realise that you need to back up a good performance by a better one if you want to be successful.

“We did make some defensive errors, but those are easy to fix. There were jersey grabs, instead of shoulders to bodies so that is an easy fix. We did leave some tries out there as well, on Saturday we need to use every opportunity you get.”

Snyman said Fiji will be a huge challenge first up on Saturday. The Fijians beat France in their pool clash by 33-0.

“They will be a tough opponent, as usual – whether you play Fiji in the pool or in the knock-out stages, they remain a tough team to beat,” said Snyman.

“We want to finish top of the pool here in Cape Town and to do that, we need to play well against Fiji and make sure we grab every opportunity that comes our way. We have much to look forward to tomorrow.”

On Saturday they play Fiji at 11h19 and France at 17h00 in their next two pool games before the playoffs start.

Scorers:

Springbok Sevens 17 (5) – Tries: Muller du Plessis, Shilton van Wyk, Ryan Oosthuizen. Conversion: Ricardo Duarttee.

Canada 7 (7) – Try: Alex Russell. Conversion: Brock Webster.