Cape Town - It feels as if he has been around for ages, but it is only a year ago that a fresh-faced JC Pretorius made his international debut for the Springbok Sevens team in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Pretorius turned 21 just before the 2019 Sydney Sevens and celebrated that milestone with his international debut, where he immediately showed immense appetite for rugby at this level.
Hardly had he blown out the candles on his birthday cake in the team room, and Pretorius made his debut against Tonga, with a 45-5 victory helping him to a win in in his first match for the Blitzboks, despite only getting a minute of action on the field.
In his second match, a 25-10 win over Argentina, Pretorius got four minutes of action. His first defeat with the team came against Australia, when the hosts edged the Blitzboks 29-21 after leading 17-7 at the break in their final pool match.
And on the second day of action last year in Sydney, Pretorius got his first start in the green and gold, when England won 26-5, but the Blitzboks ended the tournament with a 12-10 win over Australia to claim fifth place overall.
Since then, Pretorius has played in Las Vegas, Vancouver (before injury ruled him out of Hong Kong and Singapore), London, Paris, Dubai, Cape Town and Hamilton, and he experienced tournament victories in Canada and Dubai, scoring 16 tries in 43 matches.
More importantly, the former flanker who turns 22 on Wednesday, has now claimed the starting berth and is one of the first names Neil Powell dots down on his team sheet, but he still sees every tournament and every match as a learning curve.
"I certainly came a long way since last year when I took over from Kyle Brown," said Pretorius, who hails from Secunda but matriculated at HTS Middelburg, the same school his sevens idol, Kwagga Smith.
"You learn something new every day and in every match on the World Series. That is what is so great about playing sevens. With the margins so small, you can never be 100%. Every match and every tournament are a new test of your abilities and where you need to improve."
The devil is in the detail, he feels: "We had some time on the flight from New Zealand to look at the mistakes that cost us in Hamilton and it really was small things.
"Those small things broke our momentum though, so we need to fix that. It is the attention to detail that was lacking, so it is something we can sort before the weekend.
"We are pretty lucky as players in the Blitzboks team. We have a proven system and if everyone follows the processes, we are a very effective team. That will be the focus for the weekend, to just make sure you execute within your role," added Pretorius.
Pretorius said that when the Blitzboks take the field against Argentina at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on Saturday, their confidence will be up again.
"Confidence starts early in the week in the way you prepare, the way you put in extra, on and off the field and how you prepare yourself for the weekend. I know we will do all of that in the week and be ready for the first match," he said.
- The Blitzboks' current run of three successive defeats is their worst ever, but history is on their side when it comes to matches against Argentina, Samoa and France, their Pool B opponents in Sydney. South Africa won 45 out of 61 matches against Argentina with an average score of 22-10; 52 out of 58 against France (24-9); and 52 out of 79 over Samoa (19-13).