Selvyn Davids acknowledges it is “every team’s dream” to win the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Rugby World Cup Sevens, but there is no chance in-form South Africa will look any further ahead than this weekend in Singapore.
The Blitzboks lead the current men’s Series standings having won six successive tournaments in 2021 and 2022 to put a disappointing campaign at the Tokyo Olympic Games firmly behind them.
Davids has been a prolific presence in that run, scoring 111 points in four 2022 events, but any suggestion that South Africa could secure silverware on the Series and at their home RWC Sevens is quickly swatted away.
Tokyo Olympic finalists Fiji and New Zealand are scheduled to make their long-awaited Series return in Singapore, and Davids is mindful that the challenge facing the Blitzboks is only going to get tougher.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us at the moment, but we just told ourselves that we can't focus on the winning streak we have,” he told World Rugby.
“Now that New Zealand and Fiji are coming back, we know they're bringing something different through their game than any other team on the circuit.
“So, our focus just has to stay up there and like we always do, we take every game as a final because we know there's no easy game on the circuit, every team is stepping up. Every team has been playing there for a while now.
“Even without Fiji and New Zealand on the circuit the past few tournaments, we just knew we had to stay focused and just focus on ourselves and try to be the best that we can, try to get as close as possible to perfection.”
Guiding young Blitzbok talent
That search for perfection will begin again on Saturday when they take on Canada in Singapore’s National Stadium looking to extend their 34-match winning run on the Series.
South Africa’s form has been aided by the emergence of exciting young stars such as Ronald Brown and Shaun Williams, as Davids has become one of the more experienced players in the squad.
“There’s a lot of talent in the youngsters in the squad,” Davids said.
“The most important role for me is just to keep them calm whenever it's getting tough. So, that's the only thing I try to do, and I've been getting it right for a few tournaments now.
“So, if I can just keep that up… I've done what I'm trying to do.”
South Africa won the last Series that led into a RWC Sevens, in 2018, but had to settle for a bronze medal at the quadrennial tournament after losing to England in the semi-finals in San Francisco.
Davids admits the Blitzboks have “struggled with the one-off tournaments” in recent years but hopes the side has learnt the lessons of those defeats as they continue a busy year that includes the Commonwealth Games as well as RWC Sevens in Cape Town.
“We lost our cool, I think [at RWC Sevens 2018],” Davids said. “We just lost a bit of focus in the World Cup 2018.
“Because we won the World Series, we thought it was going to happen and now... I think we learn from our mistakes and again, we're going to do better, we hope to do better, we plan to do better.”
“Home World Cup is something else”
The focus for Davids and South Africa remains the matches against Canada, Kenya and the USA on day one in Singapore but it is only natural that anticipation is building for RWC Sevens 2022.
South Africa have never won RWC Sevens, losing the final against Fiji in 1997, so to end their wait for the title in front of their own fans would be a special achievement.
“It’s quite exciting, especially that we know that the stadium can be half-full at the moment [due to COVID-19 restrictions]. Hopefully, we can get it full by then,” Davids said.
“But a home World Cup is just something else. I mean, the World Cup alone, whether it's in South Africa or Japan or New Zealand, a World Cup, it's something huge, it's a one-off tournament, it only comes every fourth year.
“So, for us, having it at home, it's something huge. We're excited, but it's not something we focus on right now.
“We have Singapore and then Vancouver after that, so we're only focusing on the next tournament in hand.”
That approach is sensible but is winning the Series-RWC Sevens double a target for the Blitzboks? “It’s every team's dream to win the World Cup and to win the World Series,” Davids admitted.
“That's the goal, but that's not our focus. We just plan to be as perfect as possible, as close to perfect as possible.”