In a stunning turn of events during the Dubai Sevens, 20-year-old Blitzboks forward Masande Mtshali showcased his rising star status by scoring his first try in a Blitzbok jersey. The significance of this milestone, however, nearly slipped past him in the intensity of the game.
Known for their celebratory mobbing tradition, the Blitzboks gathered around Mtshali after his try, expecting the usual jubilation. Yet, Mtshali, in a surprising twist, appeared unaware of the customary celebration. Instead of basking in the moment, he swiftly retrieved the ball, assisted in the conversion, and sprinted back to the halfway line, eager for the next play. The try itself was nothing short of sublime, unfolding in a crucial moment against New Zealand in their Pool A decider. Trailing by five points, Selvyn Davids initiated a game-changing sequence with a well-executed restart. After a clever grubber and a quick tap from Davids, Mtshali, displaying exceptional positioning, dashed through the Kiwi defense to score under the posts. Ronald Brown’s successful conversion leveled the scores, marking the team’s first victory over New Zealand in five encounters.
Mtshali’s momentum continued into the semi-final against Fiji. With scores tied at 7-7, Rosko Specman’s strategic kick and Mtshali’s determined chase led to a fumble by the Fijian sweeper, securing Mtshali’s second match-winning try. Reflecting on his achievements, Mtshali admitted he wasn’t initially aware of the impact of his tries, emphasizing his focus on the game. The significance of scoring against New Zealand, the reigning series champions, added a layer of fulfillment to his hard work and dedication.
In the face of adversity, the Blitzboks’ resurgence in Dubai was not solely attributed to Mtshali’s heroics. Quewin Nortje’s stellar performance and the strategic coaching decisions of Sandile Ngcobo, advocating for younger recruits, played pivotal roles. Debutant Katlego Letebele, a 2023 Junior Springbok, gained valuable experience, highlighting the depth and potential within the team.
The Blitzboks’ management, recovering from a challenging period with a 12 out of 30 match win record, showcased resilience and determination. Their flawless six out of six victories in Dubai hinted at a potential revival, reigniting anticipation for the upcoming HSBC SVNS Cape Town. With Mtshali’s star on the rise and a blend of experienced and emerging talents, the Blitzboks aim to reclaim their status as the hottest ticket in town.