BlitzBoks' No.1 goal in Hamilton
SEVENS SPOTLIGHT: Springbok Sevens stalwart Ryan Oosthuizen will be completing a personal milestone this weekend at the New Zealand Sevens tournament in Hamilton.
Oosthuizen is due to compete in his first World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in New Zealand, although he has already represented South Africa in 35 tournaments.
Oosthuizen is currently in Hamilton with the Blitzboks where they’re busy preparing for the coming weekend’s NZ edition on the World Series, the fourth tourning 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.
“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, where 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, who 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.
“After not starting too well in Hong Kong last November, we had a good honest chat afterwards to rectify matters and we got the win in Dubai.
“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, adding that their main focus for the season is consistency over the 11 World Series tournaments.
“We set our target for fourth place (and automatic Olympic Games qualification) and currently we are tied for first position. Our immediate goal is to stick to the process and what the coaches want from us, and take it one game at a time.”
Oosthuizen isn’t the only player who will reach a personal milestone this weekend, as 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, where he is due to make his South Africa Sevens debut in Hamilton, 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, the 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, and 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, January 21, before matches against Spain and Argentina later in the day.