Dalvon Blood thought it was bad news on Sunday morning when he answered the phone and the Blitzboks team doctor was on the other end, but his anxiety was soon replaced by ecstasy.
“What have I done now?” Blood wondered when he received two phone calls in quick succession – first from team doc Janesh Ganda and, immediately thereafter, from high-performance manager Marius Schoeman.
Blood was expecting a call from Ganda, who checked out his shoulder after he took a bump the day before, playing with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy in a tournament at Markotter Stadium but, when Schoeman called, he got worried.
Two minutes later the frown turned into a huge smile, one that was still on the face of the former Rondebosch Boys’ High, Western Province Schools, SA U18 Sevens and Junior Springboks player 48 hours later.
“I was really thinking I am in trouble and not sure why when both called me,” Blood recalled his last-minute call-up to the Blitzbok team to play in the France Sevens in Toulouse this weekend.
“Then ‘Doc’ told me my shoulder checked out fine and ‘Shoes’ [Schoeman] asked if I am ready to play on the World Series circuit. The feeling of joy and relief that went through my body removed any pains I had before that.
“I was told Selvyn [Davids] was a late withdrawal and that I was to replace him. It was the best news ever,” Blood added, still smiling.
For Blood, being drafted into the Blitzbok side completed a journey that started at U17 level.
“I was first called up to the WP U17 squad and when I made the SA U18 Sevens team the next year, I started to dream of the ultimate step and that is playing for the Blitzboks,” the Grabouw-born player explained.
After finishing school, Blood was contracted to the SA Rugby Sevens Academy where the dream got real: “You are training with all these Blitzbok stars and that elevates your game to the next level. They are such a great group of guys, helping the Academy guys.
“You are part of the system and learn all the good values they have, hard work and always working to get better,” Blood explained.
The other exciting aftermath of the two phone calls was the opportunities it presented to not only train with these players, but play with them as well.
“We were playing against teams that have been playing on the circuit recently [Kenia, Zimbabwe, Uganda] and I realised that I can compete and enjoy myself at that level,” he said.
“Now the step up here to the World Series. This is amazing. This is the moment I worked for.”
Blood’s first training session in Toulouse was pretty emotional for the 20-year-old as he was handed his first training jersey and welcomed to the squad by team captain Siviwe Soyizwapi and the team’s most capped player, Branco du Preez. Then it was straight on to business in the notoriously difficult defence session, something that went smoothly according to assistant coach Renfred Dazel.
“It was good session and we needed that,” said Dazel.
“We had some disruption just before departure with Selvyn not travelling and Dalvon coming in. Add to that the flight here via Dubai resulting in us only arriving Monday evening and not being able to train.
“But we added another session to our Tuesday programme, and it went really well. Considering everything, we are more than pleased with the outcomes today.
“Luckily for us, Dalvon trained with us the last two weeks, so he slotted right in. He came in late, but I am pleased for him, he has a lot of speed and skill and has worked with us being part of the Academy.
“We do need to adjust the roles of some players with Selvyn out and Dalvon being a wing but, luckily, we have versatile players in Ronald Brown, Dewald Human and Branco du Preez, who can play either sweeper of flyhalf with ease.
“We worked hard physically and mentally to be ready for this tournament and come into it as well prepared as we can be,” added Dazel.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images