SA Rugby Sevens Academy coach Marius Schoeman has praised his squad after they claimed the Punta del Este tournament in Uruguay on Sunday, despite only having nine players available for the final.
Schoeman's charges beat Ireland, France and Chile en route to winning the tournament, which forms part of the Sudamericarugby Sevens series and the South American qualification process for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, to be played in San Francisco in July.
"It was a great start to the year for us and the guys really had to dig deep for this one," Schoeman to SA Rugby Media after they defeated Chile 21-5 in the final.
"We only had nine fit players left for the final match and given the fact that Chile beat us on Day One, it was a remarkable effort by the squad -- they really stepped up. Our wins over Ireland in the quarters (31-7) and France (24-14) was due to excellent play by the guys. We did not let ourselves down in the final either."
The Academy team forms a vital bridge between youth, club and Currie Cup rugby and the Blitzboks; as such Schoeman feels the tournament ticked a number of boxes for the year ahead.
"It is a big year for Springbok Sevens in general, given the defence of the World Rugby Sevens Series title, the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby Sevens World Cup, so the Academy's role of developing the next generation and to add depth will be pretty crucial," said Schoeman, who's erstwhile assistant Paul Delport has been promoted to the Women's Sevens team.
"The guys were out of their comfort zones, playing far away from home on a different continent and still managed to deliver. We had two players who completed school only a couple of weeks ago (Angelo Davids and Muller du Plessis) and another trying sevens for the first time (Sharks fullback Rhyno Smith) and this was the ideal learning curve."
Schoeman's team now travel to Vina del Mar in Chile, where the second of the Sudamericarugby Sevens tournaments will take place this weekend. South Africa will face Brazil, Ireland and Paraguay in pool A of the tournament.