The Blitzboks returned to South Africa on Tuesday with the knowledge that their four-tournament winning streak in the World Rugby Sevens Series has given them the perfect start to the season, that culminates in Los Angeles in August.
Despite the silverware, Blitzbok coach Neil Powell complimented the contributions of the younger group of players in the squad afterwards, saying the future looks bright with players such as Shaun Williams, Darren Adonis and Christie Grobbelaar coming through the ranks.
Williams, for one, had huge shoes to fill in Seville, where he joined the squad to replace Siviwe Soyizwapi, who returned from Malaga with a shoulder injury.
Coming in for an inspirational captain with 35 tournaments of experience was one thing; to replace a try-scoring wing who dotted down 13 times in 13 matches was another.
The 23-year-old Williams hails from Mooinooi in North West, was schooled at Garsfontein High School in Pretoria and studied at the University of Johannesburg before joining the SA Rugby Sevens Academy.
For Williams, it was week that will remain in the memory bank for a long time, despite it being so busy.
“Yes, it was quick – flying out to Spain last week and joining the team made me nervous, but in a good way,” he said.
“I was glad that the preparation done in Stellenbosch was so hard, because that allowed me to adapt quickly once I joined the team.”
Williams did not start the opening match this past Saturday against Spain, but when USA ran out, he was out on the wing. At the end of the match, Williams scored two tries and repelled the threats of Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, two of the fastest players on the circuit.
“When coach called me in to tell me that I will be starting against the USA and playing against those two, he gave me some good advice by telling me to just bring them back in [from the outside] and the cover will look after them. He also encouraged me to use my pace and not be in awe of theirs.”
Williams said Powell’s encouragement was very beneficial: “Coach told me he is giving me a start because I bring good energy and serve the team well. That helped to ease the nerves.
“Things went well with me scoring two tries, something I can thank the guys on the inside for. Dewald [Human] and Impi [Visser] put me in space nicely, so thanks to them for that,” Williams added with a broad smile.
Starting for the first time in a final on Sunday night was another huge moment for Williams: “It was very emotional for me, but also exciting as I started on the wing and then moved to sweeper after Justin’s injury.
“It is never nice to see a teammate getting injured, but we could not dwell on that as Australia were still a huge threat early in the game. Luckily, I am familiar with the sweeper position and I am fortunate enough to be able to play both, as it served the team best at that time.”
The squad arrived back in Cape Town earlier on Tuesday without Justin Geduld, who stayed behind in Spain for further medical examination, and he will fly back on Wednesday, assisted by team physiotherapist, Hugh Everson.
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