Blitzboks fail again in Hong Kong

JOHANNESBURG — The South African Sevens team came down to earth with a crashing thump in Hong Kong after winning the previous tournament on the World Sevens Series circuit in Vancouver. Hong Kong, the spiritual home of Sevens rugby, has always been the bogey venue for South Africa with the Blitzboks never having won on Chinese soil before. That record remains sadly intact for another year, after Shakes Soyizwapi’s team played well below their normal standard to finish in 7th place overall. The chances of the Blitzboks retaining an unlikely 3rd successive World title are well and truly out of the window now, and the team will be focussed on finishing in the top four to secure an automatic qualification for next year’s Olympic Games. Fortunately for the 4th-placed Blitzboks, England, in 5th, fared equally dismally and the South Africans maintain a 9-point cushion over England on the overall rankings. For the record, Fiji won the Hong Kong event for a record 5th time in succession, overcoming the surprise finalists France 21-7. The win means Fiji overtake New Zealand on the World Series rankings and they are now in second place, 7 points behind the log leaders the USA who finished 3rd in Hong Kong. – David O’Sullivan

From SA Rugby

The Springbok Sevens team came up short at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens after losing both their matches on Sunday, which saw them miss out again on the big prize at the iconic event. The team, however, remained in the top four on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series rankings.

The Blitzboks went down 21-12 against the USA in the Cup Quarter-final at the Hong Kong Stadium before being edged 19-17 by Argentina in the Semi-final of the 5th place play-off.

“It was a frustrating day,” said Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell. “We did not make the step-up required after doing well on day one and two.

“The first half against USA, in particular, was one of missed opportunities. We did not use our chances, while we gave them two and they scored from both.”

Powell said his young squad will learn from this.

“It is frustrating to control the match, but not lead on the scoreboard,” said the coach. “This is something this group needs to learn. Against Argentina the same thing happened. The yellow card we received for a high tackle was crucial and we conceded a vital try. “

Springbok Sevens captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi, agreed.

“It was a weekend in which we did not play to our potential when it mattered,” said Soyizwapi. “We did well leading into the knock-out stages, but we were not at our best when it counted. We can certainly improve in that regard.”

The Blitzboks held the lead in both matches. Against the USA, Impi Visser scored early for South Africa, before two blistering runs by USA winger, Carlin Isles, which first drew them level and then pushed them 14-7 ahead at the break.

Visser scored soon after the restart to cut down their lead to two before Ben Pinkelman scored to edge the USA ahead again.

The final five minutes was a desperate affair, but neither side could score.

Against Argentina, tries by Soyizwapi and Branco du Preez had the Blitzboks up 12-0. A try just before the break for Argentina closed the gap and they drew level with a converted try after the restart.

Kurt-Lee Arendse then ran the length of the field for his first try in Blitzboks colours to nudge his team ahead 17-12.

Argentina got the crucial score and converted the try with less than a minute left on the clock. The Blitzboks attacked again, but a forward pass was ruled, ending South Africa’s effort.

The focus now moves to Singapore.

“The Singapore tournament provided many upsets in the past because teams generally use a lot of energy in Hong Kong and they can’t repeat that effort a week later,” Powell said. “The good thing for us is that we have another chance to correct the wrongs of Hong Kong, and we are looking forward to doing so next week.”

Despite their overall 7th place finish, the team benefitted from an equally poor performance by England, who also lost their corresponding matches.

These results allowed South Africa to remain nine points clear of England on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series rankings in fourth spot overall.

The top four teams at the end of the Series will receive automatic entry into the Rugby Sevens event at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

Fiji won the tournament for a fifth consecutive time, beating France in the final.

The log standings after seven tournaments in the World Series are:

  1. USA 130
  2. Fiji 123
  3. New Zealand 118
  4. South Africa 99
  5. England 90
  6. Samoa 74

https://springboks.rugby/en/articles/2019/04/07/Frustration-for-Blitzboks-in-Hong-Kong