CAPE TOWN – The South African rugby public seriously needs to cut the Blitzboks some slack.
Yeah, a seventh-place finish will and should never be good enough under normal circumstances, not for the Blitzboks, not for the Springboks, heck not for any of our rugby sides for that matter.
But the circumstances the Blitzboks are currently facing are nowhere near normal.
The Las Vegas leg of the World Sevens Series marked the Springbok Sevens side’s worst finish yet in the 2018/19 series.
Overall, it hasn’t been a good one. By their standards, it’s been really, really poor, actually.
Prior to the Nevada let-down, Neil Powell’s unit finished sixth in Dubai, third in Cape Town, fourth in Hamilton and fifth in Sydney.
Their result in Vegas was especially disappointing as, until now, there has been some improvement, and then things would just go backwards again.
And while I refer to Powell’s charges as a ‘unit’, they haven’t always looked it this season.
It’s been a one step forward, two steps back kind of situation and run of results. And at the weekend, that unfortunate, frustrating run was compacted into one event.
The Blitzboks looked promising in their opener against Japan, before they went a good few kilometres backwards again with that shocker of a draw against Chile in their second match of the day.
Things looked better against England as they produced a clinical, tactically sound showing, but in the quarter-final against the USA they back-tracked again. They were nowhere in that game and they deserve to be criticised for what seemed like a lack of effort. There wasn’t a lot of intent shown. There wasn’t a lot of responsibility taken.
Although they looked decent against Fiji and fought back hard, their time in Vegas was an up, down, up, down, and somewhat up curve... literally.
But here’s the thing.
It’s a well-known fact that the Blitzboks are in a transition phase. They lost the likes of Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage, Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla, Rosko Specman and Tim Agaba to their Fifteens ambitions.
They’re left with a group whose major tournament experience is courtesy of only Kyle Brown, Chris Dry, Philip Snyman, Justin Geduld, Branco do Preez, Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok. And let’s not forget that some of those guys are also injured.
Imagine the Springboks suddenly losing 11 of their regular playing squad, some of their greatest stalwarts? Some called for patience and understanding through their coaching issues and changes. So the same should apply now.
The system is still there. The younger players need to get used to their roles. They need time to adapt. The team, new and old, as a group, need time to gel as a unit.
Hoping that the Blitzboks will make it three Series wins in a row is probably a hope that will end in disappointment. But they’ll get there with time.
So just give them time.