RugbyDouble delight in Dubai for Mtshali
─── 07:21 Tue, 05 Dec 2023
“I did not know that we were actually going ahead after that play. That is why I rushed back to get into position for the restart. Only then I realised that we are actually ahead on the scoreboard.”
It took him six tournaments to get there, but when Masande Mtshali finally scored his first try in a Blitzbok jersey on Saturday night in Dubai, the 20-year-old forward almost missed this very significant milestone in his short sevens career.
The Blitzboks are well-known for mobbing a player when he scores his first try, but for Mtshali, it was different as he seemed oblivious to what normally follows. He raced to pick up the ball he left behind the try line, passed it to Ronald Brown for the conversion and raced back to the halfway line for the next play, almost outsprinting those who came to celebrate with him.
The try was sublime. Trailing New Zealand by five points in their Pool A decider, Selvyn Davids caught the Kiwis napping from a restart. He put in a grubber and retrieved the ball himself, but was held on the floor by the New Zealand defence.
Davids quickly regained his footing, took the quick tap and set off towards the try line. He found Brown in support, who found Mtshali on a superb line, with the former Junior Bok winger racing through to score under the sticks. Suddenly the scores were tied and Brown's conversion, with time running out, sealed a first victor over the Kiwis in five outings.
The next day, Mtshali was at it again. In their semi-final against Fiji, scores were tied at 7-7 late in the match. Rosko Specman kicked ahead and a good chase followed, with Mtshali leading the charge. The Fijian sweeper fumbled and Mtshali was in for his second match winner.
Reflecting back, the former Grey High School learner said he did not even realise when he scored how crucial the try was.
“I did not know that we were actually going ahead after that play. That is why I rushed back to get into position for the restart. Only then I realised that we are actually ahead on the scoreboard,” he smiled afterwards.
“Scoring my first try against New Zealand was also special, as they are the current series champions and had one over us in the last couple of matches. That was a good feeling, I have worked hard to make the team and the try was a good reward.”
The try against Fiji was against the run of play, but equally important, and Mtshali said he really enjoyed playing with players with fantastic vision.
“That kick by Rosko was a brilliant option and we delivered a good chase that resulted in the try that won us the game,” he said. “Again, it was a team effort. But I will claim the try and it means that I have two in the bag now and looking for much, much more.”
Mtshali's heroics, coupled with the sublime performance delivered by Quewin Nortje, justified the bravery in selection of head coach Sandile Ngcobo, who indicated to the need for younger recruits into the Blitzbok system.
Another 2023 Junior Springbok, Katlego Letebele, made his debut in Dubai and although his playing time was limited, he gained massive experience on what HSBC SVNS is all about.
Credit is due to the management of the Blitzboks, who recovered from a tough couple of months, in which the team only won 12 of 30 matches, but six out of six in Dubai showed that a ticket for the HSBC SVNS Cape Town could just become the hottest ticket in town again.