Brutal rewards

As you all know we LOVE to hear stories from our teams around the world. They excite us, they give us an insight into the playing scenes that differ slightly from country to country and we especially like to hear from teams who we've supported for long periods of time when they start to come of age, so to speak.

One such team is South Africa's Brutal Affliction who have been working tirelessly to achieve a very specific goal. A goal that they reached very recently.

In a nutshell, over the past 8+ years only two teams in South Africa have won every single "pro" tournament. Dynamics and Reapers. These two teams have dominated the country over the years and no other team has really come close to touching them. 
Over the last 3 years (since 2015), Brutal Affliction have been knocking on the doors of the "champs", knowing they have the talent and ability to be up there with the best, something no one has done yet and finally, they did it. Brutal took a first place away from these teams, which was HUGE for the team. 

We couldn't just leave this as it was, so we took some time to speak with Nathan and threw a fistful of questions his way to shed a little more light on the team and this monumental achievement.

Hey Nathan, let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a little more about the team, Brutal Affliction.
The team was started by Eugene back in 2012 as a way for him and his younger brother, John-Henri, to escape some hard times they were experiencing with their family. They thought that it would be a great stress reliever to get out the house and shoot some people (with paintballs obviously) so they pulled in one of John-Henri's friends, Oliver, and started Brutal Affliction - playing in the NPL 3-man league. At that time, the NPL was a local field league (Nova Paintball) as a practice for the slightly larger SARPL league at the time. After the 1st NPL, the three decided to join in the SARPL 3-man as they were enjoying the game. Throughout the remainder of 2012, they grew as a team, meeting more players in the sport and started planning a 5-man team for the 2013 SARPL season. 2013 came along and in just a year, they won the season playing in Division 4, which was the lower of only 2 divisions available at the time (the top level was South Africa's version of "pro", where some of the players went to the Asia World Cup and won)


Who is on the team?

The team currently consists of 7 players and the coach. John-Henri (as part of the original), Anthony Baatjes, Michael Zheng(Mike), Craig Martin, Nicky (Nicky D), Brian Dolphin, Brett van Niekerk and then Eugene (who hung up his marker to coach the team)


Did the team have big goals from the outset or was it the usual playing for kicks?
In 2012, the team just played the game for fun, as I said, to get away from the problems, but as they went on in the 2012 season they were very happy with their results so they decided to play the 5-man series. They went into the 1st 5-man in 2013, not expecting a lot as they had not been playing for a year yet but after getting hammered in the 1st event the original 3 decided to work hard and get better results and in the 2nd event of the year they came 2nd. By the end of the season (5 events in the season), they had won the 2013 season. From the 2nd event, they knew they had the ability so started aiming high. At the 2nd event of 2013, realising they could have what it takes, they chose to aim for the highest position, to become the best in the country.

What’s the playing scene like in South Africa? Big, lots of teams, good leagues or is it small with minimal leagues?
South Africa is a "small" country with a minimal number of players, so in comparison to other countries we do have a small community however, we have around 80 teams in the country between 3-man and 5-man. The 5-man series has around 35 teams country-wide. 

There have been other leagues in the country in the past however, the SARPL organisers have the passion for the sport and do it to grow the sport, this is why it is the longest running league so far. The SARPL series travels around the country, providing different "series'" to different provinces and then having a Super Cup at the end of the year where everyone comes together to play. 

Where the leagues (league) dominated by any team(s) in particular? Where they hard to compete against?
Over the last 8 years, the leagues in the country (SARPL and GPPL) have been dominated by Dynamics and Reapers. Both these teams have had years of experience, with some of their players playing in both Europe and the USA. Dynamics having played and won the D1 Asia world cup (highest div) and some years ago, Reapers won a D2 millennium as well, bringing a class of paintball to their respective teams like none other and thus, making them the best in the country, continually taking top honours between themselves. Other teams come into their domain to take them on, but have never been able to take their title away (until now that is).

What did Brutal have to do to step up to the challenge?
The team had been working to every last drop of blood, sweat and tears to get to the top over the last 3 years. The team have always had great guns (thanks to the awesome Eclipse CS1s) and field awareness skills, but have always choked in the finals due to nerves and the lack of experience. What the team have realised they needed to do is change their mind-set on the field, meaning, instead of being the nice guys they always have been they need to get on the field and get the job done, whatever it takes. With this new mindset, they now come out and play every point with a point to prove, to prove they are there to stay and that they are the new champs on the block. 

Was there one specific turning point were the team thought ‘ok, let’s do this! We can beat them’ - do you remember it?
Yes there was, a magical game. 
In the semi finals, Brutal went 1 - 0 down with 2 minutes left on the clock. The next point, they were able to pull a point back within 1 minute, leaving them at 1 -1 with 1 minute left on the clock. The point seemed to go on forever and they lost 2 bodies very early on, only taking 1 opposition player. Everything seemed lost, but then, John-Henri in a amazing play in the snake, killed all 4 players and touched the buzzer with 5 seconds to spare. This is when the team knew, this is their event, this is where they become the team they have been practising for!

How close had you come before? To beating them on the field and beating them in the rankings?
Throughout the last 3 years (this year included), there have been 13 events. In those 13 events, which includes the last one, the team have 2 x 4th place, 5 x 3rd place, 5 x 2nd place and now 1 x 1st place, finishing 3rd in both the previous seasons by minimal points. The team would go into an event and beat one of the two champs, but losing to the other, so they have always been up there but never able to win. 

What do you think was the big difference this year?
The biggest difference this year is the team chemistry, where in the previous years, while everyone got along, it didn't feel like a family. But this year, the team IS a family - a group of guys who love each other on and off the field. With this bond the team's mindset has changed on the field and thus, making them a stronger team. 

So, you’ve got your first 1st place. You have to maintain that level now. Are you ready for the fight?
We know it is our first 1st place in pro but this is the 1st time in 8 years ANYONE other than Reapers or Dynamics has won an event - it is a big deal for the country. The team know that now, they will have a target on their back and that the rest of the teams are now realising that Brutal can do this, meaning they will play harder than ever before. The team however are ready for this as they have tasted the Gold and are SUPER hungry for more. Brutal have washed away any doubt any of them have ever had, knowing now that they have what it takes and they are ready to fight with everything they have. 

1st place baby!

Any last words?
Everyone in Brutal, from the players to the management know that, without the right support from the right people they would never be able to do anything as well as they currently are and almost all of this amazing support has come from Planet Eclipse and the team cannot be more grateful for this. From the amazing gear to the belief Eclipse have shown and given to the team, Brutal go out on the field every time knowing they have people watching them, expecting greatness and this is one of the major fuelling factors for their effort!

Thanks for the kind words Nathan. To some teams one 1st place finish in a season is a highlight, but for just two teams to take every single 1st place, in over 8 years is incredible. And to be the team that breaks that run and potentially start a new era of belief for themselves and other teams, well that's a pretty impressive thing to behold.

Good luck for the future guys and keep up the momentum.