The past three weeks have been nothing but a blur for quicksilver University of Cape Town flank Kyle Brown. From UCT star, to SA Sevens training squad member, to being selected in Paul Treu’s first Springbok Sevens squad of the 2008/09 season.
Brown was on Monday named in Treu’s 12-man squad for the first two legs of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens World Series in Dubai and George, joining Free State centre Phillip Snyman as one of just two uncapped players.
“I nearly fell off my chair when I heard that I had made it,” admits Brown in conversation with rugby365.com.
“Just the other day we were asked to fill in forms for a Sevens media guide and under ‘ambitions’, I wrote, ‘I would like to be a Springbok’. Of course, every young boy would write that down, but now, the fact that I am about to become a Sevens Springbok – it’s just an amazing feeling and a bit surreal to be honest.”
Whilst stopping just short of declaring this a “dream” and “asking to be pinched”, Brown is aware that he better get used to life in the fast line – and quickly!
“It’s been a whirlwind three weeks,” he admits, “but it’s a great opportunity for me and one I intend on taking with both hands.
“I look up to loose forwards like Ryan Kankowski and Heinrich Brüssow, and they both made their mark at Sevens before going on to bigger and better things, so it’s a great inspiration to me.
“Brüssow and I have similar stats in terms of height and weight, so I’ve followed his career, in particular, with a keen eye.”
The 21-year-old should make his official Springok Sevens debut in Dubai next weekend, having already represented the team in pre-season tournaments in Middelburg and Singapore, which the Boks won – beating a Fijian selection in the final.
“To be honest, I haven’t played a whole lot of Sevens since leaving school a few years ago, so it’s been quite a steep learning curve for me,” admits Brown.
“But the big thing for me has been learning from the older guys – they’re all just so calm, even a guy like Robert Ebersohn who is younger than me is so cool and calm, having already played for the side last season.”
And on his role in the Bok Sevens side, Brown reveals: “At this stage I’ll be serving as Frankie Horne’s protégé at prop. If he tires, I will get a go and look to make a few turnovers and just be a general nuisance!
“The nice thing about Sevens is that you have to be able to play anywhere. For instance, I don’t see myself being used at sweeper, but if the need arises, I have to be ready to do the job there.
“In my first tournament in Middelburg I just ran around like a headless chicken, but if you play the game properly you can last the distance.
“The big thing, for me, is defence… It’s the most energy-sapping part of Sevens, but each and every one of you on the field has a role to play – and a big one at that as any small mistake could cost your side a try.”
As Brown tries to learn the final intricacies of Sevens, he does at least have a few familiar faces to lean upon during his first few weeks in the Bok mix, with UCT teammates Mpho Mbiyozo and Paul Delport also in the SA Sevens squad.
Mbiyozo, like Brown a pacy loose forward, has been part of the Sevens ‘furniture’ for some time, whilst scrumhalf Delport is back in the mix after very nearly giving up the game this past year.
“Mpho has been really good to me,” enthuses Brown, “and Paul is my roommate – it’s great as I also know him very well from school, we both went to SACS.
“It’s great for UCT though,” adds Brown, “we’re the most represented club in the squad and it proves that us Ikeys can play the game!”
Of course, Brown and the Ikeys can certainly “play the game”. The John Dobson-coached side reached the final of the 2008 FNB Varsity Cup – a tournament which has put a whole lot of students on the rugby map, with former Ikeys ace Mat Turner playing Guinness Premiership rugby in England, despite – like Brown – not even being a regular for the Western Province U21 team.
Says Brown: “I absolutely loved the Varsity Cup, it gave UCT and us players plenty of exposure – it was fantastic.
“Making the Sevens team is something of a bitter-sweet moment for me, as I might miss out on the Varsity Cup if I stay in the squad. All those guys in the UCT squad are my mates and it will be weird not playing with them – especially after what we went through this year.
“The scary thing is that Dobbo and the coaches seem even better prepared than last year! They’ve announced a new-look coaching staff, the guys are hard at work in the gym already; I’ll certainly be following the guys’ results in 2009 if I don’t actually play myself.”
Brown was used mainly as an impact player in the 2008 Varsity Cup, his speed and versatility adding a more than useful string to the Ikeys’ bow as they came very close to winning the title after topping the log during the league phase of the tournament.
“When it comes to fifteens I’d really like to specialise as a fetcher,” admits Brown. “At UCT I play anywhere in the back row; 6, 7 or 8, but I don’t think I would make many other teams at No.8 or blindside given my lack of height!”
For the record, Brown is 1,82m tall and he weighs 95 kilograms – compare that to new Bok squad member Brüssow (1,81m, 101kg), Australians George Smith (1,80m, 98kg) and Phil Waugh (1,74m, 99kg) and England’s Tom Rees (1,80m, 100kg), and Brown does not look that out of place.
“I just want to prove that I belong here at this [Sevens] level,” says Brown when pressed about the future.
“I’m still trying to take it all in right now, but I have never worked this hard in my life! The work ethic in this squad is just unbelievable and Paul Treu is such an approachable guy – he’s created something really special in this squad.
“For now, it’s Dubai first, then hopefully George, where lots of family and friends will hopefully be to support me, and then I’ll just take it from there.”
Well, judging by his impact on the 2008 Varsity Cup, and his subsequent rise up the SA Sevens ranks, we could just hear the name Kyle Brown at least one more time before this year is out.
by Howie Kahn