“In fact,” said the 34-year-old dual international speedster, “it felt great when I arrived this morning knowing that I will be working very hard with this squad with no guarantees. All those years ago when I arrived here for the first time, I was nervous about not making the team, but in the end I did.
“This time around, I feel the same pressure, as there will be no guarantees for me getting into the squad again. But, like last time, if I work hard and apply my talent, I will be in contention again.”.
The talisman wing and sweeper – a two-time HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series winner with the Blitzboks and a bronze medallist at the 2016 Olympic Games – played the last of his 30 tournaments for South Africa in December 2020 before moving to fifteens, where he played for the Vodacom Bulls, Toyota Cheetahs and Windhoek Draught Griquas, as well as in one Test match for the Springboks, against Georgia in 2021.
“That was the right move at the time and I am grateful for everything that came my way in fifteens,” he said.
“The foundations I got from sevens made that transition easy, to be honest, as there are certain values in this system that stays with you when you go to fifteens. Just have a look at how well the sevens guys are doing in the Bok set-up, they had a solid foundation.”
While it wasn’t ‘back to square one’ when he stepped into SAS on Wednesday, but rather another opportunity to contribute in a different way to a team and system he admires immensely, Specman said.
“In my first stint, there were so many legends of the game still in the squad, so I wondered how I would ever break into the team,” he said.
“This time, I am nervous again, as there are so many youngsters pushing for a place and so will I. There are so many good things still in place here, a good coaching staff, good senior players and if we get the system functioning again, everyone will be better for it.
“There is no doubt that we can become number one in the world again. If we stick to our fundamentals and principles and trust the system, we will be back.”
Specman is reluctant to speculate on the Blitzboks’ finish in last season’s World Series, which means they will have to play in the Olympic Games qualifying tournament in Harare next month, but he believes simple advice can solve the problem.
“It is never about you, always about the team. Players can express themselves, but you must stay within the gameplan. There is space to express yourself, but you need to do your job first,” said Specman, who gained the nickname of ‘Specmagic’ from fans worldwide.
“’Specmagic’ is back yes, but that is not only me stepping and scoring tries. It is also me bringing energy to the team, making sure we have fun as well as working very hard and holding ourselves accountable.
“I hope to contribute that way. If this proves to be my last season of rugby, I want it to be one I will remember for the rest of my life.”