No excuses as Blitzboks flounder in Hamilton

You’d be hard-pressed to find when last the South African Sevens team performed this poorly in a World Series tournament, finishing 10th in Hamilton, New Zealand. While it’s still early days in the competition and the Blitzboks are in 2nd place on the overall log, but lagging 15 points behind leaders New Zealand does not look good for the South Africans’ chances of winning the title this season. The Kiwis have a powerful team this year and are likely to remain consistent for the rest of the season. They were losing finalists in Dubai and have now won in Cape Town and Hamilton. For the Blitzboks to overhaul their fierce rivals, they’ll have to ensure they are among the top finishers every time and hope that the New Zealanders flounder as badly as the South Africans did in Hamilton. France are proving to be the surprise team of the season finishing 6th, 3rd and 2nd in the three tournaments so far, to lie joint 2nd with South Africa on the overall log. The defending champions Fiji are having a nightmare with two 9th place finishes to leave them languishing in 7th place on the log. Coach Neil Powell fielded a team that featured 7 changes from the Cape Town Sevens including a new captain. None of the seven replacements were newcomers – all had varying levels of experience in Sevens rugby and included some stalwarts of the game. But clearly the squad needed more time to gel. The Blitzboks have some work to do before the start of the Sydney tournament on 1 February. – David O’Sullivan

From SARugby

The Springbok Sevens management and players took full responsibility for their 10th place finish at the HSBC New Zealand Sevens on Sunday, admitting that it was a very disappointing performance and way below their regular and proud standards.

The Blitzboks lost 36-14 to Kenya in their final Pool B match and then went down 12-5 to Fiji in the 9th place playoff at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Kenya’s victory over the Blitzboks came after 14 consecutive wins for the South Africans, and two tries in the last two minutes by Fiji meant the Hamilton tournament ended in misery for Neil Powell and his squad.

These results, coupled with New Zealand winning their home tournament, saw the Blitzboks drop to joint-second spot on the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings after three tournaments of 10 played. The Kiwis, who beat France by 27-5 in the final, top the log with 63 points, followed by South Africa and France (48 points each).

For Powell, it was a frustrating weekend in which the Blitzboks lost three matches in a row, a statistic that will hurt the squad, who came into the tournament on the back of 11 wins from their last 12 matches.

“We were just poor against Kenya, with our basics not on par,” said Powell about the performance that saw the Blitzboks go down 19-0 in the opening half.

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“If you can’t even win kick-offs you are in trouble. We were also playing catch-up rugby from early on and forced the game a bit, which again created mistakes they capitalised on.”

A late Muller du Plessis try saw the halftime gap close, but despite a late Zain Davids try, Kenya scored two quick tries, including an intercept, and it was all over.

“The unpredictability of sevens again showed. Sometimes you have a good week and a poor tournament, like this one, other times a bad week resulted in a good tournament,” Powell reflected.

Against Fiji, an early Angelo Davids try had the South Africans in control for all but the last two minutes, when Fiji scored twice. For Powell, there was some silver linings in the match against Fiji.

Also read: Stedman Gans to captain new-look Blitzboks squad

“Yes, there were some positives from that match, and we can take that into Australia,” said Powell.

“We managed to improve our control and it gave us some momentum to take to Sydney. The lack of finishing was still present though, but that was sort of the theme of our weekend. We could not finish the numerous opportunities we created and that was clearly not good enough.”

They have no choice but to improve next week, Powell insisted: “We will have to plan this coming week accordingly. We will review what and why happened here and take it from there.”

The Blitzboks depart for Australia on Monday, where they will start their preparations for the HSBC Sydney Sevens.

The World Series standings after three tournaments:

1. New Zealand 63

2. South Africa 48

2. France 48

4. England 39

5. Argentina 35

5. Australia 35


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