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Andre Snyman, capped 38 times by South Africa, has been to the top of the mountain. He’s played professionally, in Currie Cups and Tri-Nations. Saturday, on his first assignment as Glendale’s 7s coach at the Harlequin Cup in Irving, Texas, he jumped head first into the American rugby scene.

Perhaps the palatial setup of Glendale’s Infinity Park hadn’t prepared him for what the true American rugby experience, and especially the summer 7s circuit, consists of -- competition for valuable and limited shade, a depravity of air conditioning, less than flat pitches, and even a lack of touch judges. Snyman, less than five years removed from his final game as a South African hero, had to tote the touch flag in Glendale’s pool play games.

“It’s quite nice to have tasted both worlds, being professional, being right up there where everything gets done for you, and all of a sudden here you’ve got to do everything for yourself, so it’s nice,” said Snyman after the Raptors won the Cup title. “It’s all part of building the game and building the spirit and hopefully creating a better environment for rugby in America.”

Snyman’s wife is American, which likely led to his eagerness to get involved in the American coaching scene. His family is set to join him in Colorado in the coming weeks. Snyman had inquired about finding a place to ply his knowledge Stateside months ago, but his phone calls and e-mails went unreturned. When Glendale director of rugby Mark Bullock heard the former Springbok center was interested in crossing the Atlantic, he jumped at the chance to bring him into the fold.

Snyman arrived in Colorado just in time to take in the Raptors’ DI championship. He saw the pinnacle of American club rugby. Shortly after, he experienced the unsavory day-to-day reality of many of us in the domestic game. Still, just one tournament in, he seems to understand what it’s all about.

“It was a rocky start for me. The first training session there was only five guys, and the second one was only three guys,” said Snyman, “but slowly but surely we’ve managed to get a team together, and I’m taking my hat off for these guys. They played for each other, and I think at the end of the day the just really, really wanted this. It actually had nothing to do with the coaching. I just had to guide them. They did everything.”