The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
JOHANNESBURG — You have to go back in the record books to the World Sevens Series in 2012/13 to find a worst performance by the Blitzboks in the Dubai tournament. Six years ago, South Africa finished 10th in Dubai, but bounced straight back into good form to record three tournament victories and finish 2nd in the overall standings. When the World Sevens Series started in 2000, they finished 9th before winning for the first time in Dubai in 2003. They’ve won this leg of the World Sevens Series six times with back-to-back wins in the past two seasons on their way to winning the overall World Series title. 6th place in the 2018/19 opening tournament is going to sting Neil Powell’s men. It’s somewhat bewildering that things went so badly by South Africa’s high standards. It’s a team made up of players who have, over the years, formed the critical “brotherhood” that has ensured the team plays the highest calibre rugby. However, in previous years, the Blitzboks have played a number of warm-up games which they didn’t do during this pre-season. Their conditioning wasn’t an issue. Some of the players had said they were relieved the competition was underway because pre-season had been brutal. Possibly it was a case of more rustiness than usual. Don’t expect a similar performance by South Africa in front of a packed, passionate Cape Town Stadium this coming weekend. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
The Springbok Sevens team’s sixth place in the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens on Saturday was one of their worst starts in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in recent seasons, but coach Neil Powell feels there was improvement as the tournament progressed.
The Blitzboks claimed victories over Zimbabwe and Samoa on the first day, before a close defeat to Argentina spoiled the afternoon for their fans.
They still topped Pool A though, but more disappointment followed early on the second day when they were outplayed by England in the Cup quarter-finals, losing 22-5. The Blitzboks rebounded well to beat Scotland 29-0 in the 5th place semi-final, before losing 24-19 to Fiji in extra time in the 5th place final.
Powell said there was improvement along the way and he was pleased with certain aspects of their play in the last two matches.
“The fact that we did not play any tournaments before the start of the World Series may have impacted on our performances here in Dubai,” said Powell.
“We managed to control matches for longer spells as the tournament progressed and I am happy with that.”
Powell said they will be looking to control matches better next weekend at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.
“The reality is that we are in a bit of a rebuilding phase, with a number of experienced guys who have moved on, so it will take a bit of time to be at our very best again,” said Powell.
“I am pleased that we showed progress and we will take another step forward this coming weekend.”
The lack of execution of the basics was the most disappointing aspect of their performance, Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman said afterwards.
“We didn’t do the small things well,” said Snyman.
“We were poor in those areas in the first four matches. Against Scotland and Fiji things went more according to plan, but overall we are disappointed. It was a reality check too, you cannot just rock up and expect things must happen for you. We lacked that focus, especially early on.”
Poor stuff by @Blitzboks – possibly the worst I've seen them play in 3 years. Kickoffs were poor, poor tackling and what is with the high tackles – so many in the first two days. Disappointing start to the series for them.
— Brenden Nel (@BrendenNel) December 1, 2018
The Blitzboks will be keen to get back home and regroup before next weekend.
“We will have great support from fans and family, but it will be our responsibility to improve on our performance. We messed up here in Dubai, so it is our job to fix it in Cape Town,” said Snyman.
The Blitzboks failed to fire a shot against England, who scored twice in the first half and then two more before the South Africans could muster a response in their 22-5 win. A brace by England captain, Tim Mitchell, had the English 12-0 ahead at the break and tries by Tom Bowen and Phil Burgess took the game away from the Blitzboks, who only had a try by Selvyn Davids in the last minutes of play to show for their efforts.
The Blitzboks though delivered a much better effort against Scotland in the 5th place semi-final, scoring five tries, with Muller du Plessis getting a brace and Werner Kok, Zain Davids and Rosko Specman dotting down as well. Dewald Human kicked two conversions.
A hat-trick by Muller du Plessis was not enough to beat Fiji in a pulsating match. The first half was a massive tussle, with defences holding sway. Fiji scored after six minutes of play to take the lead, but Du Plessis scored his first of the match on the buzzer and Dewald Human’s conversion evened out the scores at the break.
The Blitzboks team’s sixth place @Dubai7s on Saturday was one of their worst starts @WorldRugby7s in recent seasons, but @Neil5Powell feels there was improvement as the tournament progressed. @CastleFreeSA @FNBSA @ASICSRugby pic.twitter.com/gpOzVB9HWi
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) December 1, 2018
The second half saw Fiji score a breakaway try, only for Du Plessis to step his way to the try-line for a second time. The young winger then grabbed his third with a minute left to play to put his side up 19-14, but Fiji scored an unconverted try on the buzzer again, resulting in extra time, where they were first to score to clinch the win.
The Springbok Sevens team will face Zimbabwe, Samoa and New Zealand on the opening day of the fourth edition of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens on Saturday, with the Blitzboks’ clash against the All Blacks Sevens concluding what promises to be a scintillating day of action.
The defending HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions will face the reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens and HSBC Cape Town Sevens champions at 19h56 on Saturday in front of a packed Cape Town Stadium. It’s the final encounter of 24 matches on the day.
The expectation is that all available seats will be sold out when the first match, between Scotland and Canada, kicks off at 10h15.
Among the other highly anticipated clashes on Saturday will be England facing Fiji, the USA taking on Argentina in an Americas battle and Scotland and Wales looking for Celtic bragging rights.
The Pools for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens are:
A: New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe
B: USA, Argentina, Spain, Japan
C: England, Fiji, France, Kenya
D: Australia, Scotland, Canada, Wales
Springbok Sevens flyer, Muller du Plessis, finished the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens as leading try-scorer. The 20-year-old scored a hat-trick against Fiji, adding to his four earlier tries to finish one try ahead of World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Perry Baker of the USA, Marcos Maroni (Argentina), Alamanda Matuga (Samoa) and John Porch (Australia).
Du Plessis’ efforts were made more special by the fact that South Africa only scored 19 tries in their six matches (the same as New Zealand) to place seventh overall among total team tries. Rosko Specman (3) and Werner Kok (3) were the other main contributors.
The Blitzboks (98) made the second most tackles in Dubai, after New Zealand (123), but only had a 64% tackle completion rate. They missed an uncanny 55 tackles, the third-most of all the teams in Dubai. Philip Snyman (17) made the most tackles followed by Werner Kok and Impi Visser (15 each).
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.