The Blitzboks are many things to many people – some love the comfortable integration by the team and others laud their high performance ability which sees them consistently rank in the top two sevens teams of the world.
Generally, the Springbok Sevens are liked for being a true example of the potential of South Africans working together towards a common goal.
They have their superstars, with no less than three former World Rugby Sevens Players of the Year amongst them, as well as record points scorers, but also – as with any successful team – an engine room where the focus is on delivering the goods and laying a foundation for the stars to shine.
Find amongst those the quiet, unassuming figure of Ryan Oosthuizen who loves nothing more than getting the work done without frills or fancy stuff. The lanky 24-year-old is a double HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champion and come round five of the 2020 series, will be chomping at the bit to contribute towards a potential third gold medal.
Oosthuizen missed out on the previous two tournaments in Hamilton and Sydney as part of the rotational policy set out by Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell as part of his planning for the Olympic Games, but the part-time law student looks set to hit 100 matches and 100 points in Los Angeles this weekend.
“It is another opportunity to contribute to a team that means so much to me,” Oosthuizen said as the Blitzboks fine-tuned their preparations for the HSBC LA Sevens to be played at Dignity Health Sports Park this weekend.
“Nothing makes you realise how special it is to play for the Blitzboks than having to watch them play on television or from the sidelines. It is such a privilege and honour to play for such a team with so many great players.”
Oosthuizen was barely out of school at Paarl Gymnasium when the 2016 Rio Olympics came around. At that stage, he was plugging away as an outside centre for the DHL Western Province age group teams, but come Tokyo 2020, he will be hoping to live his dream in Japan.
“Coach Neil planned to give everyone a fair opportunity to stake a claim for the Olympics,” he said.
“I play in a pretty competitive position, with guys such as Kwagga Smith and JC Pretorius also around, so I need to make sure I make it as hard as possible for the coach not to select me.
“The fact that the Hong Kong and Singapore tournaments have been postponed until after the Olympics has limited the opportunities to impress even more, so this weekend will be an important one for me.”
Oosthuizen is one of the best examples of the slogan “there is no I in team” and his contribution will be to “trust the system and process” rather than running 80 meters to score.
“We play best when everyone contributes and you trust the guy next to you,” said Oosthuizen.
“There was a slight hiccup in Hamilton and that resulted in a bad slip-up (the Blitzboks finished 9th). The guys bounced back nicely in Sydney and now we have another opportunity to continue with that here in Los Angeles.”
Oosthuizen’s views are backed up by Impi Visser, another of the engine room variety. For Visser, the work done back in camp in Stellenbosch, was crucial to expected results in Los Angeles.
“We are very privileged to be in a position where you can play for your country and experience new places, people and cultures like we do here at this new tournament venue, but the hard work is done at home. We prepared well in Stellenbosch and I believe it will lay a good foundation,” said Visser.
Visser made his debut last season and played in all ten tournaments. He missed out at Dubai last year and was the official reserve in Cape Town, where he played in the final against New Zealand. Adding the final in Sydney, it makes solid reading for the qualified mechanical engineer, with two finals in three tournaments.
“I am really looking forward to the weekend,” added Visser.
“We prepared well back home and it is another opportunity to go and express and enjoy ourselves. I will focus on my responsibilities, but also to enjoy myself. The enjoyment factor of playing this game is important, but it is easy to enjoy when you play with guys like these.”