“We Are Improving, But More Work Is Needed” – Phillip Snyman


They have a track record of performing in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and there are quite a number of achievements in the Springbok Sevens’ set-up and history, including five tournament victories on American soil, but for Philip Snyman, there will only be tears at this weekend’s HSBC LA Sevens if the effort from the South African side is lacking.

Snyman, one of the most successful Blitzboks of all time who captained the side to consecutive World Series titles and who has three series gold medals in his trophy cabinet, is now assistant coach to the Springbok Sevens side that arrived in Los Angeles in second position on the World Series standings at the halfway stage of the 2023 season.

For Snyman, the side is well-balanced, but whatever the amount of talent and game-breaking ability they have, all will disappear if they do not show the combined effort that the coaches are looking for.

“We need to understand where we are as a team – we are building and everybody came into this tour with a different perspective,” said Snyman.

“Some returned from injury, others are still finding their feet in the World Series and others were given chance to recover from niggles sustained at the last tournament.

“The pleasing part though is that the players coming back from injury are really looking sharp and those back home who looked after their rehabilitation deserves a special mention. Ronald Brown and Mfundo Ndhlovu are sharp and Travis Ismaiel’s return is also a feather in the cap for our system, not only for giving him an opportunity with the Blitzboks but also to getting him battle ready again.

“I am happy to say that we are on the same wavelength in terms of what we want to achieve. Those objectives are semi-finals in every tournament and a top-four finish in the World Series and everyone are committed to that. If we show the effort needed to achieve that, we will.”

Snyman mentioned that the Blitzboks may be lacking when it comes to experience, an important ingredient on the World Series.

“For now we do not have that luxury, but I am really pleased about the way the guys adapted since arrival and they are ready to go,” he said.

“I think it is fair to say that they travelled better to the USA than to New Zealand if I look at the energy at training. The fact that there is a new challenge with only a handful who played here before is also bringing out the best in the guys. The venue does not really matter to us, the focus would rather be to eliminate all excuses and to get going with the work on the field.”

Snyman feels the team’s camaraderie is improving all the time: “I think the guys are really starting to enjoy each other's company and that was a crucial element in previous campaigns that proved successful.”

The management prepared the players well for this trip and Snyman is hoping for a marked improvement in specific areas.

“We want to be more physical at the breakdown – there was a huge improvement from Hamilton to Sydney in that regard, so we are improving, but more work is needed,” explained Snyman.

“It is not a matter of structure, the guys are getting into position, it is rather the application – getting the tackle shoulder onto bodies and not just grabbing arms and jerseys. The one-on-one defence will be very important. The stats in this regard were not great in Australia, but we can cut five, six tries per tournament if we execute our tackles better.

“The same with the attack, in the last tournament we scored an average of four per game, but in the last one, the final against New Zealand, we did not get one try, so clearly we need improvement in that aspect of the game as well.”

The inclusion of Ismaiel can change that, but Snyman warns about unrealistic expectations from the former Springbok wing.

“He has a good rugby brain, so he learns quickly and has been doing so,” he said.

“He has good aerial skills and can contest at kick-offs, while on the wing, he runs hard and has a big body, so he is not easy to stop.

“We are keen to see how he goes, but we will not overload him in the first week. It was emotional for him today when we gave him his official training jersey and I expect a good tournament. He has class and if he stays connected on attack and defence, he will enjoy himself.”