South Africa’s most-capped Springbok Sevens player, Branco du Preez, has retired from international sevens rugby and will leave the Blitzboks with a bouquet of career records, gold medals and highlights.
Du Preez made the decision after the HSBC Cape Town Sevens, where he represented South Africa in his 85th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, a record for the Springbok Sevens which places him eighth overall in the history of the World Series.
He played in 431 matches and scored 1447 points, including 101 tries, a career-high 468 conversions and a drop goal in a career that saw him clinch 24 tournament wins and three World Series gold medals. Du Preez also has a Commonwealth Games gold medal in his bag.
The 468 conversions, a Blitzbok record, is the fifth most in World Series history and his 431 matches played is fourth on the all-time list.
The 32-year-old made his Springbok Sevens debut in Wellington in 2010 and has been a Blitzbok stalwart ever since.
“My time has come to turn a new page and say goodbye to the Blitzboks team,” said Du Preez.
“I am sad to leave but excited about what is to come! I cannot thank this team enough for all of the lessons – every win and loss. Every trial and triumph we’ve faced has shaped me into the player that I am today.
“I’d like to thank SA Rugby and my former head coaches, Paul Treu and Neil Powell, for giving me the opportunity to represent my country. Thank you to the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, which has been a second home to me and, of course, my team-mates, current and former. I wish the current team all of the best in the forthcoming tournaments.”
Du Preez, who also represented the Junior Springboks, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Golden Lions in fifteens, is currently in talks with a number of prospective clubs and unions.
Springbok Sevens coach Sandile Ngcobo praised his former team-mate and player.
“Everyone loves a good underdog story and the beauty of rugby is that there is a time and place for everyone, regardless of size,” said Ngcobo.
“Usually, it’s the little guys who get run over by the big guys or big teams over small teams, but Branco du Preez is an unadulterated example of pure technique, heart and his sevens career proves him victorious.
“My first impression of Branco du Preez was shaped when watching fundamental and principles footage where coach Neil used as him as an example. He made Solomon King, one of the biggest New Zealand players on the sevens circuit at that time, look like a 50kg player. But in reality, King was way above 100kg, compared to ‘Bibo’s’ 78kg.
“The second is of ‘Bibo’ playing against Canada in Las Vegas. Canada once had an enormous forward (Adam Zaruba), who mowed down players weekly. I remember Adam made a line break and ran straight at ‘Bibo. The whole stadium stood up in anticipation, and ‘Bibo’ folded big Zaruba into the advertisement boards.
“It was an honour to have played and won championships with ‘Bibo’. I witnessed true determination and detailed work ethic. No one needed to tell or remind him to do extra kicking, rehab, strength, or analysis.
“He was an absolute professional. His strength and power (body to weight ratio) and determination in his roles and responsibilities for the team, in our system, were an epiphany of what surfaced on the field especially in contact and pressure moments.
“Most importantly, Branco was a warrior, a man of integrity and a team guy. I treasure our memories, the things I’ve learned and our friendship. He’s a true example of what our Blitzbok system creates and lives out via our culture and our actions on and off the field – inspiring hope and being pioneers of greatness.
“It’s been a privilege to have coached and worked with a legend of the Sevens game. Thank you Branco ‘Bibo’ du Preez,” Ngcobo concluded.
SA Rugby High Performance Manager for Sevens, Marius Schoeman, said Du Preez’s international status is par to none.
“Not only do we celebrate a legend in South African sevens rugby, we celebrate a legend in world sevens rugby circles,” said Schoeman. “Branco is respected by top international opponents – both on and off the field – and it was indeed a privilege to have been a part of his career. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”