Last shot at history in Hong Kong for Springbok Sevens

The Springbok Mens Sevens Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 team Angelo Davids celebrating against Chilli during their game at the DHL Cape Town Stadium

Much has been made of the fact that the Springbok Sevens, despite winning 40 Sevens tournaments on all continents, have not cracked gold at Hong Kong Stadium. Seen here: Angelo Davids celebrates. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 3, 2024


Much has been made of the fact that the Springbok Sevens, despite winning 40 Sevens tournaments on all continents, have not cracked gold at Hong Kong Stadium, and with the iconic tournament moving to a new venue next year, they will have one last shot at breaking that bogey.

One would expect some emotional baggage for this fairly experienced Blitzbok squad at the final event in the Son Ko Po suburb, but for the two youngest squad members, history counts for nothing.

Katlego Letebele and Quewin Nortje, who debuted for the team at the season opener in Dubai in December, enter the fray with no fear or favour and nothing else on their mind but to contribute to a winning effort.

Neither of these two former Junior Springboks are burdened by previous struggles in the Far East.

Blessed feeling

“I just want to contribute to the team,” Letebele explained. “I did not expect to be part of every tournament so far, given that I had to learn the tricks of the trade when I joined the squad last year. So, looking back, it is a blessed feeling knowing that I have progressed and learned so much in the last six months.”

Letebele feels that he has been contributing, whether on the field or off the bench: “I have a simple attitude, everything I do as part of the team, I want to contribute. Whether I am on the field starting a match or coming off the bench late in a game, I am doing whatever is needed from me to add to the team effort.”

Last year this time, Letebele was admiring the skills of some of the senior players, and now he is feeding them attacking options and making tackles alongside them.

“I would not have dreamt any of this when I joined the sevens,” he said. “Here I am, travelling the world, representing my country and fighting hard alongside a great group of guys doing their best for the badge. That is massive for me.”

Letebele’s path has been made easier thanks to the input and encouragement from the senior players: “That has been massive. They really helped me getting to grips with the demands of sevens and to adjust to the insane pace of the game. This is a good time to return the favour.”

Nortje, who also played for the Junior Boks last year and has now re-joined Letebele in the Blitzbok squad, is kicking at his heels and can’t wait to tear up the turf in Hong Kong Stadium from Friday.

His memorable entry into sevens rugby – scoring in the final of his first event – was blighted by a hamstring injury sustained in Perth, and as a result, Nortje missed the North American leg of the world series.

Change of focus

“It is great to be back,” said Nortje. “I was despondent when I broke down as most injuries put you back and I was enjoying myself out there.

“But I immediately changed my focus on the rehab process and how to get back to fitness again. It is important to rehab well, and I am pleased that I could come back in time for Hong Kong. I am ready to use my speed and chase kicks and whatever else is expected of me from the rest of the team.”

Nortje said his hamstring is feeling 100% and he is ready to play, and that his mind will be clear when he runs out at Hong Kong Stadium: “When (former Blitzbok) Chris Dry asked me when I will be ready and I said Hong Kong, he told me that is one tournament everyone wants to play in. The stadium and surrounding mountains create a buzz, he said.

“The scenery was indeed as he described it, so now it is just for me to go out there and give everything I have for the Blitzboks.”