'No pop-star performances or extravagant celebrations will deter the Blitzboks from remaining focused on business this weekend.'
Dubai has never disappointed when it’s come to the spectacular.
Whether it’s the eye-catching architecture, the nightlife or a retail sector that would interest even those averse to spending more than 45 minutes in a shopping mall, it’s all there. And, unsurprisingly, no attention-grabbing prospects will be spared when the 2019/20 edition of the World Sevens Series kicks off in the United Arab Emirates this weekend.
But while Dubai might be going all out to celebrate 50 years of Sevens in the populous emirate, no pop-star performances or extravagant celebrations will deter the Blitzboks from remaining focused on business this weekend.
Just as well, because in a season as big the 2019/20 one, you can’t afford to get distracted by sideshows, and Blitzbok veteran Chris Dry knows that all too well. Ahead of the Blitzboks’ departure, it was pretty clear that he hadn’t paid too much mind to anything other than rugby where Dubai is concerned, he just wants to go out there and jol at The Sevens Stadium.
They’re on a mission.
“It’s been 50 years? I wasn’t even aware of that. At least I’ve been there for 10 of those 50 years,” Dry said laughingly. “But ja, 50 years whether it’s 50 years or one year, it’s all the same. We’ll go out there and do what we have to do.”
With the Olympic Games the big focus on the 2020 Sevens calendar, Tokyo will of course be a destination circled in red for many teams. But staying focused on the Seven Series for now and ticking the boxes as the Blitzboks go along will be vital, according to the experience-rich campaigner, who is confident that they’ve put some solid plans in place for their primary current focus – the series.
“This year was a good one as we had a longer pre-season than usual. We spent a lot of time on the field and I think we also laid a good foundation for the tournaments to come,” Dry said. “I think we’re very lucky in that sense. We had a good pre-season and now we can’t wait to get out there and jol.
“It’s important, we’ve seen it many times if you look too far ahead, you always stumble in that first phase. There’s always an Olympic dream, but it’s in the background for now.
“It’s there, and we can’t say it isn’t, it’s the final hurdle we have to approach, but I think for us to be successful there, we first have to be successful in our processes, our tournaments and our build-up.
“I think we’ve tried a lot of things and we learnt a lot to make that first tournament a good one.
“If you look at the teams that have been successful at the Olympics, it’s teams that had been successful throughout the year, so we want to be consistent. Yes, we want to be successful in every tournament, but success isn’t necessarily just being number one – success, for us, is having a strong squad and having all our guys on the same page.
“If every one of us has one goal, and if we reach those mini-successes, we can be successful.”
At the Rio Olympics, the Blitzboks bagged a bronze medal – a finish that would be considered a superb one for most teams. But for the Springbok Sevens side, a unit that has set standards for success in South African sport, it almost felt as if they were expected to do more.
In that year, Dry was a travelling reserve to the Games and didn’t feature after he had recovered from injury ahead of the spectacle. Naturally, as a player of his calibre, that fringe position would have been rather disappointing, but it certainly contributed to his drive for the Tokyo Olympics.
While Dubai’s 50th celebrations will be big this weekend, there’s no reason why the Blitzboks can’t steal the show, especially if they all go into the opener with the same level of drive as Dry. And I don’t think drive is something that will ever lack in this team. The Blitzboks face Kenya, Spain and England in Pool D of the Dubai Sevens, which kicks off on Thursday.