Chris Dry has been with the Blitzbokke for a few seasons now and he is looking forward to the Hamilton Sevens maybe more than any of his teammates.
Auntie Avril Fillies gives us an insight on his recovery and how much it means for him to be back on the field.
To sit at home and watch your teammates playing while you are sidelined for a year due to an injury was very frustrating for Chris Dry, experienced campaigner of the SA 7’s team.
He’ll make his comeback on Saturday 26 January in Hamilton in the third leg of the HSBC Sevens Series after being sidelined due to injury since December 2017 when he was injured during the Cape Town leg of the Series.
“The past year I was always the player looking in from the outside and there was nothing else I could do.
When I was selected for the Dubai Sevens in the SA Academy team I knew I had to be on top of my game to convince coach Neil Powell of the Blitsboks that I am ready and 100% fit.
My role in the SA Academy team was two-fold, I had to lead the
youngsters and also show that I am ready for the bigger stage again,” said Dry when interviewed at Cape Town International Airport before the team’s departure for the Australasia leg of the HSBC Sevens Series.
“Although I was not physically part of the team training at the
Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS) I was part of the setup and could assist with encouraging the younger players by motivating them.
I know there is a perception amongst the Blitsboks’ supporters that I am the joker in the team, but that is not true! I am bringing the ‘gees’ (spirit) to the team when we are travelling the globe1.
“It is not easy for players travelling the first time overseas to be
away from home for two weeks in a row and despite being exposed to jetlag, there is also the realization that you are far from home and no mom to be at your beck or call. Us being a family at SAS we live, eat, sleep and train together and are dependent on each other.
Being one of the senior members in the squad it is easy to pick up if some of the players are homesick or needs cheering up. That is when I perform my antics, prank them or have an imprompto concert.
The past year I missed this silly moments in a stressful environment where you are under pressure 24/7 when I was not part of the squad. Luckily my understudy Rosko Specman stepped in and I will find out if he has done a good job,” he chuckled.
According to him the step up from the Academy side to the Blitsies is seen by the young players as a huge obstacle but due to them knowing the system they just need motivation and encouragement from their ‘older brothers’ to make them comfortable.
“In Dubai it was a learning curve for me to play with the young
players. Their lack of experience and to play under pressure could have been a handicap or obstacle in the competition for invitational sides, but they all came to the party and we lost in the final against a team that were playing together for a longer period than we were doing.
I as the captain am proud of their performance and with more competitions to gain experience and sharpen the skills the senior guys should watch their backs,” Chris said.
After Dubai the Academy team played in two tournaments in South America and players like Ryan Oosthuizen (captain), James Murphy and Mfundo Ndhlovu, who were part of the successful team that won the tournaments in 2018 were experienced players.
They were in the Blitsboks that had to pull out all the stops to help SA to win the HSBC Series for the 2017/18 season in Hong Kong and Singapore when the senior players were at the Commonwealth Games in Australia or on the injury list, he said.
“It is no secret that the team made South Africa proud by winning
bronze in Hong Kong and fell short in the bronze final in Singapore but still kept the title hopes alive.
Players such as Selvyn Davids, Zain Davids, Dewald Human, Muller du Plessis and Heino Bezuidenhout became household names globally after these two tournaments.
They are now the players to watch as the experienced players won’t be there for long. We lost Seabelo Sentala, Kwagga Smith, Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage and Rosko Specman to the 15’s and the opportunity for the young players is there to make their mark in the places of the old stalwarts.
I am looking forward to see the growth of all of them in the game and am very excited about the future of sevens rugby in South Africa,” Chris said.
Neil Powell shared his sentiment about the young players.
“When we lost players to the 15’s it was a chance for the Academy players to show what they are made of.
Kurt-Lee Arendse is the player to watch and slowly but surely we will blend the youth with the experienced players and I am looking forward in moulding the new guns into the same unit that helped us to win the HSBC Sevens Series back-to-back.
They can only grow by gaining experience and the input of the senior players.
Very excited for the future and although we did not obtain the results that we usually have at the begin of the season, maybe it is a blessing in disguise.
There is a saying that you are just as good as your last match and we can only improve on our performances in Dubai and Cape Town.
“My advice to the young players is to play to the best of their
abilities and they will reap the benefits sooner than later. They
should focus on the upcoming tournaments and we will take it from there.
I trust the system and the players that are part of the system,” Neil said.
***Avril Fillies is a rugby coach and writer
Photo: Chris Dry (Gallo Images)