Branco du Preez says he will cherish the opportunity to become the Blitzboks’ most experienced player when he makes his 70th tournament appearance in London this weekend.
When the Blitzboks take on Japan in Pool A of the London Sevens on Saturday, the 29-year-old Du Preez will represent the team in his 70th tournament in the World Rugby Sevens Series, more than any other player has done.
Du Preez credited this feat to the Blitzboks’ team spirit over many seasons.
‘Without this team, I would not have achieved anything,’ said Du Preez, who became known for his trusted left boot and deadly defence.
‘I cannot lie to you, I feel immensely proud of this. And immensely grateful. Not only because I am still able to do what I love, but to be able to do it with players who symbolize what the Blitzboks stand for. When we landed in London on Monday morning, I felt so blessed.’
Du Preez debuted in Wellington, New Zealand in 2010 and scored a try against Fiji, the first of 91 so far. And 350 matches later, he has scored no less than 1253 points.
‘I remember that try very well, especially as I had to beat William Ryder, at the time one of the great steppers of the game, with a step in order to score in the corner. I was so tired lying there, but the smile on my face was the biggest ever.’
Du Preez, who hails from George but finished his schooling at the Harmony Sports Academy and Hentie Cilliers High School in Virginia in the Free State, has great memories of so many matches and tournaments, but he singles out Las Vegas, where they won on the occasion of his 50th tournament for the Blitzboks.
‘And winning the World Series twice in a row, which is something no one can take away from us and something I will remember forever. Especially as we had to rely on each other in so many of those battles, where we had to support each other,’
It was not always bright lights for Du Preez, who also represented the Junior Springboks in 2010 and played for the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Golden Lions in a short fifteens career.
‘I missed out on selection for the Olympic Games in 2016. I struggled with an injury and form and did not make the final squad.
‘There is another chance come Tokyo 2020 and I have my mind set on making that squad. To do that though, we need to do well here in London to start with, in order to qualify as a top four finisher. That is where we want to be at the end of the weekend. To get there, we need to trust each other and play as a team and be in sync.’
9 years, 69 tournaments and 350 matches later Branco du Preez still remembers his first try in a Blitzbok jersey like it was yesterday. His debut was in Wellington in 2010. This weekend he will become the most capped Springbok 7s player ever @CastleFreeSA @FNBSA @ASICS_ZA pic.twitter.com/t7JjNFJbyX
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) May 22, 2019
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix