Earlier this week it was announced that former Blitzboks captain Kyle Brown has decided to hang up his boots. The 32-year-old retires as a legend of the game, having suffered his fair share of horrific injuries during an 11-year career in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
One of only three players (along with Philip Snyman and Cecil Afrika) that were members of every Blitzboks team to win the world series, Brown also captained South Africa to a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Brown first appeared on the radar in 2008 as a flanker playing Varsity Cup for UCT and age-group rugby for both Boland and Western Province. By the end of that year, he had been called up to the Blitzboks squad for the Dubai Sevens, and the rest is history.
Never did you read that Brown was contemplating a comeback to the fifteen-man game. He soldiered on in sevens, is retiring as an all-time great, and will hopefully be kept on in some role, as has been done with other former players such as Neil Powell, Renfred Dazel, Marius Schoeman and Paul Delport.
I won’t speculate as to why Brown chose to focus on the Blitzboks and never made the move back, but it worked for him. Sevens is becoming more of a specialised version of the game, which makes the bridge to fifteens that much steeper.
Yes, some fifteens superstars will inevitably try and muscle their way into a sevens team for the next Olympics, because a gold medal is something special, but during last year’s sevens world cup, there was no influx of fifteens players to sevens squads.
Players like Brown paved the way for this, and hopefully will encourage other players not to try and be what they are not, namely a fifteens superstar.
Die Burger recently reported that Seabelo Senatla will again return to the Blitzboks setup later this year, albeit not full-time. Senatla has never shown any real promise in a Stormers jersey, but with the Blitzboks he’s a superstar and the world’s best finisher.
The hope remains that Blitzboks superstars like Kwagga Smith, Rosko Specman and Ruhan Nel will become world beaters for the Springboks, one can’t help but wonder if their expertise wouldn’t have better served Powell’s Blitzboks this past season – especially with the Olympics one year away, and the team having won the world series back-to-back.
SA Rugby is in a Catch 22 because, although their involvement in the Blitzboks has been immense, it’s no secret that SA Sevens stalwarts still get paid peanuts in comparison to their Springbok counterparts.
It’s probably not commercially viable to pay Snyman the same salary as Siya Kolisi. Hopefully with the World Sevens Series growing in popularity, and success at tournaments like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Sevens World Cup becoming more paramount, this will change.
I say this because, as much as it would have been great to see Brown making 30 appearances for the Stormers, and perhaps winning a Currie Cup with Western Province, I much preferred him being an integral part of SA Rugby’s biggest success story over the past 10 years.
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