While I was delighted to score six tries and help the USA Eagles reach the final of the Dubai Sevens, there was still a lot of frustration at having to settle for second place to New Zealand. Yes, it was a major improvement on last year when we didn’t manage to win a match and I only lasted less than a minute due to concussion, but this an Eagles team that wants to make a major impact in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and prove that we are genuine top four team which would earn us automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020.
That is why it has been so important to keep the momentum we generated in Dubai going in the build up to the second leg of the Series here in Cape Town where South Africa, the defending Series champions will want to bounce back strongly after Dubai.
To the outside World the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series must seem like a breeze; flying around the globe and stopping off in wonderful locations like Cape Town and playing some rugby before another flight to the next spectacular destination. The truth for all of the players in the Series is very different with long haul flights, jet lag, time away from family, numerous time differences and like this leg, just a week to recover before getting back out on the pitch to compete against some of the World’s outstanding rugby players.
That is why it is so important to get your preparation right, look after your body and do whatever you can to be in the best shape to deliver the goods. In Dubai the Canadian players cooled down by wearing beanie hats with pieces of ice attached but it’s not something we are going to copy and will stick to the cold towels around the neck!
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For the USA guys this leg of the Series is all about backing up what we achieved in Dubai and proving we are the real deal. In the build up to the World Rugby Sevens in San Francisco last July, HSBC produced the Pioneers film which gave fans a behind-the-scenes view of what it is like to be part of the USA squad and there is no doubt it helped raise the profile of rugby in America.
We want to inspire the next generation of players and we can stimulate that increased interest by delivering more titles in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. It is always uplifting to see the work being done around the globe to spread the game and sevens is a wonderful way for youngsters to start. Here in Cape Town the HSBC TAG Rugby clinics have been a big success with players from the Series taking part in grassroots sessions against the stunning back drop of Table Mountain.
Of course, the main reason we are all here is to take the Series title and having put down a marker in Dubai, the best teams get right back onto the horse and deliver again. While I was happy to score six tries I know there were things I didn’t get right including picking up a couple of yellow cards. My focus this week has been on how I can get better and step things up to help the team win this leg of the Series because we believe the sky is the limit for the USA.
The South African players are wearing a special kit to honour former President Nelson Mandela and it is a pretty cool jersey. We all went out to Robben Island to see where he was jailed for so many years and it really was a small cell. My reaction was “how could you be in a cell that size for 23 hours a day?” The visit was very humbling and the Series does give us special memories.
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