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It seldom gets more comprehensive than this. The Blitzboks won their seventh Dubai Sevens crown since the World Sevens Series started in 1999 by keeping their formidable opponents in the final, New Zealand, scoreless. The South Africans needed to warm up before they hit their stride, after a narrow win over Kenya in their opening match. But things came together and at one stage in the final the Blitzboks were throwing the ball around at will denying their opponents both possession and territory. They never looked vulnerable as the defence was rock solid and the attack blisteringly fast. On this showing alone the Blitzboks should be fancied to win the World Series title and an Olympic gold medal. If coach Neil Powell has a problem, it’s the wealth of talent available. The commentator described the South Africans as ‘a team of superstars’ and that’s no exaggeration. Players like Cecil Afrika, Stedman Gans, Branco du Preez and Werner Kok were not in the main Blitzbok team, but featured in the Academy team’s win in a secondary tournament in Dubai. That’s not because they were being nursed back to fitness. They were surplus. These players would walk into any other Sevens side in the world. It was fantastic to see Seabelo Senatla back in action extending his try-scoring record in the World Series to 227, and Rosko Specman deservedly being named Player of the Tournament. This coming weekend is the Cape Town Sevens, where South Africa have failed to win in the past three years. Since their last victory in Cape Town in 2015, the Blitzboks have managed 2nd in 2016, and 3rd in 2017 and 2018. – David O’Sullivan
To keep a New Zealand team scoreless in a rugby match is almost impossible; to prevent the All Black Sevens team from scoring in a final even more so.
Yet, that was exactly what the Blitzboks did on Saturday in the final of the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens, blanking the current Rugby World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games gold medallists in their 15-0 win, a defensive effort which left Springbok Sevens captain Siviwe Soyizwapi ‘almost speechless.’
The winger turned 27 on Saturday and received the best birthday present from his team as they delivered a masterclass, handing the captain his very first gold medal in the Dubai Sevens.
“I was saying to my roommate Ruhan (Nel) yesterday morning how great it would be if we won the tournament on my birthday,” said Soyizwapi after the team lifted the trophy at The Sevens Stadium.
“And now we did. Since that final whistle went, I have been almost speechless, taking in the effort the guys put out there.”
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) December 7, 2019
Soyizwapi may be shy when it comes to showing his emotions, but he was very clear on why they were crowned champions: “We kept on improving. Every match we got better and better and managed to do things the way we wanted to. We played the way we wanted to play.”
With the SA Rugby Sevens Academy team winning the International Invitational tournament in Dubai, it was understandable that Soyizwapi credited the Springbok Sevens programme as a whole.
“We have great depth at the moment and that pushes the guys even more,” he said.
“The Academy side also won their final and there are also several current Blitzboks in that team. We are very fortunate to be in that position. As a squad we always strive for improvement.”
“We are playing in front of our home fans and our families, so it will be a big week. It will be important though to start all over again on Monday, start fresh and from zero leading into the weekend,” said Soyizwapi.
Rosko Specman, who was named Player of the Final, said it was a memorable performance, as the team played as a unit.
“It was such a massive honour to play with these guys again,” said Specman.
“It is such a great feeling to know that when you run onto the field with this band of brothers, nothing will be left out there.
“It is such a privilege to be able to express your God-given talent with a team like this. I play with a smile on my face because I enjoy every second of being out there. I love this game.”
For Seabelo Senatla, who scored the third try in the final to extend his national try-scoring tally to 227, said it was great to be back in Dubai, where he last played in 2017.
“I had a slight ankle strain on Friday, so I sat out of the action, but everything was fine for the final day,” said Senatla.
“I have to give credit to our medical staff, they called it and it worked out perfectly. We already trust them, and after today, I trust them even more.”
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said the squad grew stronger and stronger as the tournament progressed, which helped them execute in several ways, but the coach was worried after their performance on the first day, when they scored a close win over Kenya. However, it became clear thereafter that they were finding each other.
“I was wondering after that Kenya game if the guys would be able to find each other during the tournament – as we progressed in the tournament they did and became a very tight team at the end,” said Powell.
Powell used the Dubai tournament to match some players who returned from fifteens with some of the junior players, who played last season.
“Some of the younger players did not play with the older guys before and they needed to find each other out there,” said Powell.
“Someone like Kurt-Lee (Arendse) has not played with Ruhan (Nel) or Rosko (Specman) before, so that was always going to be a challenge. They pulled together as a team over these six games and I am very proud of their effort.”
The progress of the team was measurable in the way they defended, he felt.
“They improved with every match,” said Powell.
“The step-up on defence was great and that was one area we are very pleased about. If you can keep teams out, you will be successful in tournaments.”
The first tournament of every new series is normally a bit of an unknown and Powell was impressed by a few performances from other teams, while also praising their opponents in the final, New Zealand.
“Samoa was not bad at all and Australia impressed me as well. England also played very well towards the end and New Zealand was strong,” said Powell.
“The final against New Zealand was incredible and they deserve a lot of credit. It was very tight. In the first half there were a couple of end-to-ends and they scrambled so well.
“We had turnovers and attacked, but their scramble defence was excellent and we just could not score. We stayed in control of the match though and that was the difference. From the kick-off we had control.”
Powell said they will travel back home to South Africa with some confidence for next weekend’s HSBC Cape Town Sevens, from 13-15 December.
“Coming to Dubai, it was not really about the outcome, but the process we needed to implement. We had a great effort out here and if we can repeat that, we can be successful in Cape Town again,” said Powell.
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