The Sevens Heaven:- unbridled joy of the Blitzboks

It’s hard to try and comprehend just how much character, strength and sheer bloody mindedness it took from the Blitzboks to defend their World Series Sevens title over the weekend.

Beating England 24-14 in the final in Paris was just one part of the puzzle. England – the potential bogey team who had their number so many times and who caused them so much grief.

For a squad riddled with injury, without some of their best players and visibly exhausted, slipping up was almost unavoidable.

But somehow, they found the last bit of gas in the tank. And sent South Africans into Sevens heaven.

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There was a smattering of luck involved, thanks to the very same English beating Fiji in the quarterfinals of the weekend’s tournament, but the strength of character shown by the team to go on and win the title was immense.

Control the controllables is an old sporting adage.

For the Blitzboks, that was two World Series tournaments with no medal, consistently making the semi-finals throughout the season and having to deal with injuries and players leaving to follow their XVs aspirations. In total, the team used 28 different players.

For context, of the 12 players that started with the squad in Dubai last year, just four remained for the final and one of them, Seabelo Senatla, was injured for the crunch clash.

Despite winning just two titles across the series – compared to Fiji’s five – the Blitzboks capped a magical weekend of South African sport by doing something few – including some of the players themselves – would have thought was possible.

From a purely sporting perspective, it was a phenomenal feat – and if the youngsters that have come in and filled the boots of those who are injured is anything to go by, they’ve got more left in the tank over the next few years.

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But producing incredible results is just one thing the Blitzboks are good at.

As South Africans, we tend to look at our sports teams with an extra bit of expectation.

The Blitzboks are all-round excellent human beings.

Despite sailing to lofty heights, they are some of the most likable, engaging, humble and inspiring athletes around.

Whether that means Werner Kok scaling a fence to greet a young fan. Phillip Snyman patiently waiting for Fiji’s Josua Vakurunabili to finish his prayer before congratulating him.

Francois Hougaard giving his Olympic medal to Seabelo Senatla at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Snyman, again, thanking everyone and allow his teammates to run onto the field ahead of him after clinching the title over the weekend.

Their character shines through when they celebrate through song, when they support each other even when they are not playing. It’s there when you might bump into one of them in public and they always have time for a selfie.

This does not happen by chance. For the past few years, ever since Sevens first started, the management teams have been fostering a culture that compels the players to be driven by certain values.

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It doesn’t matter if you’ve played one match or one hundred – players are all valued equally. Visit the high-performance centre on any given day and you’ll see that it’s the players themselves who are lugging their gear across the field.

And when it comes to filling the water bottles after the shuttle runs, the guy with the most caps is likely to be on duty.

Their values transcend sport and prove to us what is possible, not just for achievement excellence, but what happens when differences are celebrated and encouraged all with one common goal of good in mind.

The Blitzboks represent everything we want our society to reflect. Good guys, representative of South Africa’s demographics and never willing to give up.

Sport is often a reflection of society. If the Blitzboks are its mirror, perhaps things aren’t as bad as many people want us to believe.

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