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Blitzboks fail to defend Las Vegas title, but extend their lead in the World Sevens Series

JOHANNESBURG — After five tournaments in the 2017/18 World Sevens Series season, the Blitzboks have a handy 10-point lead at the top of the overall standings, despite their poorest performance so far. And by poor, we mean they only managed to come fourth. The South Africans have been relatively consistent compared with their closest rivals, always managing to progress to the semi-finals. New Zealand had another disappointing tournament by their high standards, but Fiji are starting to find their mojo after stuttering in the earlier rounds. Despite the fourth place finish, the Blitzboks still edged further ahead at the top of the rankings with a gap of 10 points over the New Zealanders. Coach Neil Powell isn’t concerned that his team has won only one tournament so far this season (last year at this stage of the competition, they had won 4 of the 5 tournaments). He’s blooding new players and he’s juggling injuries and inexperience. Despite those challenges, the Blitzboks are still riding high. – David O’Sullivan

From SA Rugby

The Springbok Sevens team extended their overall lead in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend after claiming fourth place finish at the HSBC USA Sevens in Las Vegas on Sunday.

The consistency of the South African performances saw them increasing their lead over second placed New Zealand to ten points as they contested their fifth consecutive semifinal of the series, the only team in the World Series to do so.

The Blitzboks did lose 12-10 to Argentina in the semifinal and conceded a podium place to Fiji, who beat them 26-22 in the bronze final, but Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was not despondent at all.

The tournament saw a number of interesting results, with the USA becoming the fifth team to win a tournament in the 2017/18 World Series.

Springbok Sevens team. Image published courtesy of Twitter @Blitzboks

Powell said he was pleased with many aspects of the team’s performance this weekend.

“We are looking for consistency and given the number of new faces and some injuries, we did well in that regard. We had a poor opening match against Wales on Friday and did not play our best rugby against Argentina on Sunday, but did well in the other matches. We don’t always test measure ourselves on the results, but also the way we play. Obviously, we will have to improve come Vancouver, but our depth was tested very nicely today. We want the new guys to play against the likes of Fiji, England and New Zealand to see if they can make the step-up.”

Springbok Sevens captain, Philip Snyman, said the experience gained in Las Vegas will now have to be implemented in Vancouver next weekend.

“We started to play better the more we played together. The learning curve is a steep one at this level and the younger guys will be better prepared come next week after this weekend. We will work hard this coming week and I am really looking forward to the tournament in Canada.”

Early on Sunday, two tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi were cancelled out by two Los Pumas tries, with a sole successful conversion by the South Americans proving the difference. The Blitzboks, who already lost Werner Kok in the first match of the tournament due to injury, also saw Branco du Preez limp off due an ankle injury halfway through the match.

Against Fiji, Ruhan Nel scored a brace, with Selvyn Davids and Ryan Oosthuizen also dotting down. Fiji also scored four times, but converted three of them, which made all the difference.

Stats Notes:

  • Siviwe Soyizwapi (35 points) was the leading points scorer for the Blitzboks, followed by Branco du Preez (21) and Cecil Afrika (17).
  • Afrika extended his career points scoring record for the Springbok Sevens to 1385
  • Du Preez improved his Springbok Sevens record for successful conversions to 358.

The top five teams in the standings are:

  1. South Africa 92
  2. New Zealand 82
  3. Fiji 79
  4. Australia 72
  5. Argentina 67
  • The draw for the HSBC Canada Sevens, to be played at BC Place in Vancouver next weekend, was made. South Africa will play in pool D and will face Russia, Scotland and New Zealand.

Source: http://www.sarugby.co.za/article.aspx?category=sarugby/sevens&id=4250854

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