Seven players to watch at HSBC Cape Town Sevens
As the world's best men's and women's teams arrive in Cape Town from Dubai, we look at seven players who are set to shine this weekend.
Shilton van Wyk will hope he can replicate his match-winning form when he represents South Africa in front of a home crowd, and his family, for the first time in Cape Town this weekend.
Van Wyk was the Blitzboks’ hero as they won a 10th Emirates Dubai 7s title, scoring the decisive try in the semi-final against New Zealand before crossing the whitewash twice in a player of the match performance to help beat Ireland in the final.
“It was a wonderful feeling,” Van Wyk told World Rugby about dotting down deep into injury time in the win against the All Blacks Sevens.
“[To score] the opening two tries in the final, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Victory at The Sevens Stadium gave the Blitzboks a fourth successive title in Dubai, but their first in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series since January.
It was also the maiden triumph of coach Sandile Ngcobo’s reign and followed a disappointing start to the 2023 Series in Hong Kong, in which they won only one match.
On the secret of the team’s success in Dubai, Van Wyk added: “For the team, it was [because] we stuck to our game plan and the things the coaches ask of us, what we must do.
“And for me personally, I just stick to my game plan, what I'm supposed to do and what I feel I'm going to do right in the game and just go full out.”
Van Wyk did not have too much time to dwell on his and the Blitzboks’ achievements at The Sevens Stadium as the team regrouped to prepare for this weekend’s assignment, the first HSBC Cape Town Sevens since 2019.
South Africa will kick-off their campaign against Canada on Friday, and having grown up in the Western Cape himself, walking out at DHL Stadium in the famous green and gold jersey will be a special moment for Van Wyk.
“I'm very excited, actually. It started already on Monday when we came into the hotel, and you could feel it and it was just emotional,” he said.
“I’m also aware that I'm going to play in front of my own fans for the first time wearing my Blitzboks jersey in Cape Town. It's very special to all of us, I think.”
Watching down from the stands on Friday will be Van Wyk’s parents as well as his girlfriend and their two-year-old daughter.
“It will be a very special moment for me to play in front of my daughter for the first time,” he added.
“I'm not the guy for any celebration or anything but in my mind I'm gonna think of them and on my wrist, there will be something [written].”
So, what would it mean to finish the weekend on top of the podium again?
“For us as a team and the system, it would mean a lot to win here in Cape Town because it would be our second time that we've won here,” Van Wyk said.
“But for me personally, it would be like a dream come true for me to win in Cape Town on my first time playing in Cape Town.”
Looking further ahead, Van Wyk is hopeful that he can help the Blitzboks to a fifth Series title, although he insists the team is taking the season “tournament by tournament, game by game”.
Having started the first two tournaments of the 2023 Series, he is also determined to become a more regular fixture in the South Africa side and sees himself as a creator as much as a scorer of tries.
“My personal goal that I said to myself is to try and play all the tournaments and to create for my wings, like Dalvon Blood, Shakes Soyizwape so that they can score,” he said.
“I just want to create some tries for them and to also score a few of them.”