Newbies hoping to put Blitz back in Boks and end 40-year Hong Kong itch

Katlego Letebele during a Blitzboks training session at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport last month.
Katlego Letebele during a Blitzboks training session at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport last month.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Unburdened by their team's failure to win the Hong Kong Sevens, newbies Katlego Letebele and Quewin Nortje are desperate to put the Blitz back in the Boks when the team attempts to break their 40-year duck there on finals day on Sunday.

Indeed the Blitzboks have much unwanted baggage from their previous trips that stretches back to their isolation-breaking visit there in 1993, but the pair of former Junior Springboks who debuted in Dubai earlier this season, have been spared lingering battle scars.

I just want to contribute to the team,” Letebele explained in a SA Rugby media release before the Hong Kong Sevens from Friday to Sunday.

“I did not expect to be part of every tournament so far, given that I had to learn the tricks of the trade when I joined the squad last year. So, looking back, it is a blessed feeling knowing I have progressed and learnt so much in the last six months.”

Letebele is happy to carry his share of the workload.

“I have a simple attitude, everything I do as part of the team, I want to contribute. Whether I am on the field starting a match or coming off the bench late in a game, I am doing whatever is needed from me to add to the team effort.”

In the corresponding period last year Letebele stood in admiration of some of the senior players.

“I would not have dreamt any of this when I joined the Sevens,” he said. “Here I am, travelling the world, representing my country and fighting hard alongside a great group of guys doing their best for the badge.”

Of course those he admires have helped smooth his path.

“That has been huge. They really helped me getting to grips with the demands of Sevens and to adjust to the insane pace of the game. This is a good time to return the favour.”

Nortje, who made a memorable entry to Sevens, missed the North American leg through injury. He is back in the squad and tugging at the leash for a run in Hong Kong Stadium from Friday.

I was despondent when I broke down as most injuries put you back and I was enjoying myself out there,” admitted Nortje.

But I immediately changed my focus on the rehab process and how to get back to fitness again. It is important to rehab well, and I am pleased that I could come back in time for Hong Kong. I am ready to use my speed and chase kicks and whatever else is expected of me from the rest of the team.”

Nortje believes he has completely recovered from his hamstring troubles.

“When [former Blitzbok] Chris Dry asked me when I will be ready and I said Hong Kong, he told me that is one tournament everyone wants to play in. The stadium and surrounding mountains create a buzz.

The scenery was indeed as he described it, so now it is just for me to go out there and give everything I have for the Blitzboks.”

The Springbok Sevens face Ireland at 5.39am SA time in their first Pool C game on Friday, followed by a clash against Spain at 8.23am.


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