De Jongh was one of the big-name 15-man code players who have been brought into the Blitzbokke squad this season to ensure South Africa field the strongest possible team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
August next year is still quite far away, but the hard work starts now, and De Jongh showcased his growth in just one week at the past weekend’s Cape Town Sevens.
After he and Francois Hougaard battled to keep up with the ferocious intensity of the Sevens game in Dubai, they both improved at the Cape Town Stadium as the Blitzbokke produced a remarkable turnaround from a forgettable first day to beat Argentina in the Cup final and defend the South African title for the second consecutive year.
De Jongh instigated the Blitzbokke’ comeback in the final Pool B game against England as he dummied one way and side-stepped to the other to beat two defenders to open the scoring. The South Africans held on to win 10-0 and qualify for the Cup quarter-finals, and De Jongh had arguably his best outing in the Sevens jersey in the final against Argentina, when he produced a number of forceful runs to put his team on the front foot.
“I must say that it was seven years since I last played a few tournaments (De Jongh last featured for the Blitzbokke in Wellington in 2008). I’ve learned a lot, because to go from 15-man to sevens is a lot more difficult than the other way around. It’s the small, little details - all of a sudden you have to lift in the pods (kickoffs), all of a sudden you can’t run your offload lines,” he said.
“Those small details, I need to adjust those habits that I need to get rid of. It’s absolutely fantastic how the guys have been helping me, like Kyle (Brown), and even guys who are not in the squad like Cecil (Afrika), Werner Kok, Frankie Horne. Cecil has been with us for the whole week just to support the young guys like me and Francois and Dylan (Sage).
“The culture in this team is amazing. There are no egos in the squad and everybody pulls their weight, which is fantastic to see. Hopefully I can get more opportunities and I’m absolutely having a blast.”
Blitzbokkecoach Neil Powell and captain Kyle Brown mentioned over the weekend how the over 106 000 people that came to the Cape Town Stadium over the two days had added to the pressure to perform.
But after it negatively affected their performances on Saturday, De Jongh said they embraced the situation in a positive manner on Sunday.
“The guys decided ‘How badly do you guys want it?’. To play in a packed crowd like this, we didn’t want to disappoint them and South Africa. I must give credit to the senior guys, especially Philip and Kyle, for pushing the guys through and getting them in the right mindset to ensure that when we come to day two on Sunday, we’re switched on,” he said.
“We were all focused and buying into the coach’s plan, and that was the difference - the culture and the vibe we had throughout the day.”
The Blitzbokke’s next assignment is the Wellington Sevens on January 30-31. The Bok Sevens have drawn hosts New Zealand, Scotland and Russia in their pool.
Original source: De Jongh getting Sevens details right