Two hundred and fifty-five matches – and 49 tournaments – ago, when Justin Geduld ran onto the field in the colours of the Springboks Sevens team for the very first time, he cried tears of joy. By the end of it, those turned into tears of despair though, as the then 19-year-old broke his hand in his very first match.
On Saturday, at the HSBC Sydney Sevens at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, he will run out for his 50th tournament with an extreme feeling of gratitude as only the seventh Blitzbok to play reach a half-century of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments.
For Geduld, now 26 years old, that day in 2012 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, feels like a lifetime ago.
“I never thought of playing 50 tournaments for my country when I started out, especially after breaking my hand in my very first match! At that time, we used 35 tournaments as a benchmark, now 50 seems to be the new standard,” Geduld reflected.
“So, to be running out for my 50th is a very special feeling and I am very grateful. It is tough out there and not many players make it to 50.”
Three of those who did, Branco du Preez, Chris Dry and Cecil Afrika, will share the moment with Geduld this weekend, while Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown and Philip Snyman will no doubt be sending messages of support to their former teammate.
“It is a humbling feeling,” said Geduld.
“Only those six guys did this before me, and they are all real stalwarts of the game. Frankie Horne was the first to get there and what an example he set. Frankie had that attitude of never giving up. He would have played with a broken leg and no one would ever know as he would not tell you that he was hurting.
“I respect the other guys that have done it just as much. Kyle and Philip are legends of the game and here I am, still playing with Cecil, Branco and Chris – what an honour for me. I learned from them for a long time and I am still learning from them.”
The 2019/20 season was due to deliver some highlights for the former Junior Springbok and DHL Western Province player, schooled at Tygerberg High School alongside the likes of Springbok locks Eben Etzebeth and Marvin Orie.
Aptly, the Cape Town-born and raised player moved past 1000 career points in December at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens, but true to his playmaker attitude, Geduld prefers others in the limelight, rather than himself, as he does when putting teammates in space to score tries.
“Playing for the Blitzboks has been the highlight of my career, one that at 26 years young, I hope will still last for a long time,” he said.
“Yes, playing at the Olympic Games (in 2016) was a great feeling, but the development of our squad over the years was a much more fulfilling one.
“To be able to win the World Series twice as a squad would have to be the ultimate highlight because it was a testament to the growth we had over the years. And we are not done yet.
“I still need to improve, I need to be the best me, in order to influence others in a positive way, just like the other guys in the 50-club were to me.”
Brown and Du Preez celebrated their 50th caps with tournament wins and for Geduld to do the same, they need to play as a team this, he feels.
“We did not play our best last weekend, but the belief is there as well as the knowledge that we have been successful in the past when we trusted our structures,” he said.
“That is one of the elements we need to be better at this weekend and not play as individuals. We measure our success not in results, but in the effort and how well we implement our processes. I am confident that things will go well this weekend.”
The Blitzboks’ playing schedule is:
Saturday, 1 February
03h41 – Argentina
09h30 – France
Sunday 2 February
02h51 – Samoa
SOURCE – South African Rugby Union