It was supposed to be the highlight of day one for the fans who filled the Cape Town Stadium to capacity. Instead, it turned into a nightmare as Kenya triumphed 14-12.
And to top it off, then-captain Kyle Brown and coach Neil Powell had to front the media just a few moments later, a must-win game against England awaiting them that same evening.
The press conference was like a funeral, with Brown battling to explain how the Blitzboks continued to make errors that they normally wouldn’t. Of course, the Springbok Sevens went on to beat England and win the tournament in the end, but it’s something they want to avoid in this weekend’s Cape Town Sevens.
“We definitely spoke about last year, and trying to learn from our experiences and ensure there’s no complacency going forward in the tournament. Sevens is sevens – we’ve got Russia first, then USA and Australia, and regardless of what people think, those are incredibly tough teams,” Brown told Independent Media at the V&A Waterfront amphitheatre on Wednesday, where hundreds of fans took photos with the Blitzbok squad and had memorabilia signed by the players.
“We know that in Cape Town, every single team will be hunting South Africa every time.”
This time around, Brown won’t be the man required to get the Blitzboks going in the event of a crisis. He stepped down from the captaincy ahead of the Dubai Sevens, with the experienced Philip Snyman taking over.
The South Africans went on to clinch the title last weekend, but Brown’s first tournament without the captain’s armband wasn’t very different from the past.
“The captaincy wasn’t really a weight on my shoulders anyway. It was a load that was spread quite evenly amongst some fantastic leaders in the squad, and one of those leaders has now taken over as captain,” the 29-year-old said.
“I still find myself talking a lot. We are trying to open up opportunities for younger leaders to step into those roles and a bit more responsibility. I will be weaning myself off those talking roles. It was awesome, it was great to play out there (without being captain). It’s important that I make sure that I do my little bit on the field, and that is exactly what this team has always been about.
“Sevens is a hell of a quick game and it’s not like a captain makes a massive difference on the field. I wasn’t the one making the calls three years ago, or last season either. That would be somebody with a strategically more genius brain like Cecil Afrika, or Branco (du Preez) or Justin (Geduld).”
Brown was in charge when the Blitzboks claimed a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, and he led the team since 2010. So calling time on the captaincy may have come at the right time, for a new leadership group to take the team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It could also have been an ideal opportunity to move into 15-man rugby, like Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith will be doing soon. Brown was an openside flank for UCT, Boland and the WP Under-21s in his early days, and has excelled at the breakdowns for the Blitzboks.
But despite a shortage of quality fetchers in South African rugby, he doesn’t want to go down that road.
“Certainly not, no! I’ve had an incredible time in sevens, and it was one of those decisions you deal with after two or three years into your sevens career, when you start to make a name for yourself and offers start coming in,” Brown said.
“But I made this home for the last eight years. It’s an incredible place to be, and I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made. If I had to do something in 15s, it would have to be at a club in a foreign country where I can just go and smile and not worry about the result for the weekend!”
Original source: Blitzbok Brown ‘very happy’ in Sevens