There are familiar comforts in Dubai for the Springbok Sevens team, with the knowledge that a good track record and some passionate support await them at The Sevens Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
Despite that, the Blitzboks will not take anything for granted. In fact, it is quite the opposite according to experienced forward Impi Visser, who said they are eager to right the wrongs of last season's HSBC SVNS.
The Blitzboks started off with a great tournament win in Dubai, but did not meet their standards for the remainder of the series, neither that of their supporters, with only 12 wins in their last 30 outings.
That hurt was part of the determination and drive towards a better 2024 season, according to Visser.
“For our squad, Dubai has good memories,” Visser, who will be playing in his 33rd tournament, said on Wednesday.
“This will be my seventh appearance at the tournament, first with the Sevens Academy and later as a Blitzbok player on the World Series, with a couple of wins included.
“Many of us made our debuts here and handing out training jerseys to our two uncapped players, Quewin Nortje and Katlego Letebele, at training today, reminded many of us how special this jersey and journey is.
“And that we did not always do the jersey proud last season. That hurt and will make us determined to use this opportunity to rectify that.”
The road to redemption started a couple of months ago with their pre-season, where they worked very hard and stayed focussed on the task at hand: “Yes, the hard work was done, and we did push ourselves very hard. Now that is done, we get the chance to play, and we are eager to do so.”
On the other side of the experience spectrum, Masande Mtshali, is keen to use every opportunity to grow and contribute. The 20-year-old, who also played for the Junior Springboks in the World Rugby U20 Championships earlier this season, hopes to take the learnings from last year's five tournament appearances, combined with the hard work done at training, into the new season.
“Dubai is a good place to start with that,” said Mtshali.
“I have been here before and we feel comfortable with the surroundings and tournament set-up, so there will be no excuses. We really trained hard to prepare ourselves the best possible way for the tournament. I feel ready to contribute in a positive and constructive way and to go and make the country proud alongside the rest of the Blitzboks.”
The Springbok Sevens squad takes on Samoa, Canada and New Zealand in Pool A of the tournament.
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