Juan embraces sevens return

Juan de Jongh says the close-knit culture at the Blitzboks has helped ease his transition back into the sevens game, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

De Jongh recently returned to the Springbok Sevens fold for the first time since making his first and only appearance for the side in 2008, with the skilful back proving to be particularly influential as the Blitzboks clinched the Cup title at the Cape Town Sevens.

Following the Blitzboks' convincing victory over Argentina in Sunday’s final, an elated De Jongh could barely lift his hands off the trophy.

‘It’s a fantastic feeling, it’s the last game of the year and so to be able to achieve this success with this group of guys is just phenomenal. It’s a feeling I’m going to cherish,’ he told SARugbymag.co.za, with the Cup firmly clasped under one arm.

‘I’m really enjoying the experience, you’re never too old to learn and this has been a real learning curve for me. I know I’ve got a lot of 15s experience, but this is a completely different game. The culture here just makes it a lot of fun and it’s a difficult place to leave,’ he added.

De Jongh, who has earned 14 Test caps for the Springboks, admitted it had required an adjustment as he reacquainted himself with the different demands of sevens.

‘There’s a lot of challenges, it’s difficult to come from 15s to sevens and the little things take some getting used to. Running the correct lines, providing support, work rate and tracking of defence is all very important. But I’ve been getting a lot of help from the experienced sevens players who have really provided assistance to the new players. There are no egos in this squad and everybody pulls their weight, which is fantastic.'

De Jongh is set to join the Stormers for their Vodacom Super Rugby preparations early next year, but he’s likely to be called on again at some stage to feature for the Blitzboks, with eight tournaments remaining in this season's Sevens Series.

‘It’s been seven years since the last time I played, and I’ve learned a lot,’ he commented. ‘I’ll go wherever I’m needed, so if I do get a chance to play again I just want to build on the memories, and make the most of it.’

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis