JOHANNESBURG - Thank goodness for the BlitzBoks.
South African rugby fans were torn between watching Neil Powell’s Sevens stars playing in the Dubai World Rugby Sevens Series final late Saturday and watching Allister Coetzee’s Springboks take on Wales in their final Test of the year. There was always only going to be one winner: the BlitzBoks.
Powell’s men had gone through the tournament unbeaten, having dispatched Uganda, Kenya and Canada in pool play on Friday and then swept past Samoa and Fiji in the quarter- and semi-finals respectively. New Zealand awaited in the final ... and, again, there was only going to be one winner: the BlitzBoks.
Powell’s men produced a sensational attacking display to race into a 19-0 lead at the break, after tries by Philip Snyman, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith, and while the Kiwis hit back with a double of their own after the resumption, the South Africans finished in style when Tim Agaba came off the bench to seal the deal at the death - a 24-12 win.
It was the BlitzBoks’ second win in a row in Dubai after they also grabbed the title a year ago and they’ve now again made the perfect start to the 2017/2018 season, where they are defending champions after winning five tournaments last season and winning the overall title.
Captain Snyman was obviously delighted with the performance over the two days. “We’ve seen in the past that a good start in Dubai gives you momentum for the rest of the series so it is very pleasing we could start on such a positive note,” he said.
Coach Powell said winning any tournament brought about a special feeling. “Each one has its unique circumstances and effort. We had a number of players here who played fifteens during our off-season and they joined us late but I was very impressed with the way they got back into the Sevens groove and culture. It helps to have a solid Sevens foundation.”
Among those players Powell was referring to are Smith, Senatla, Ruhan Nel and Werner Kok, who all played Currie Cup rugby recently.
And while they all shone in the XV’s game and have aspirations of playing for the Springboks in future, Sevens remains close to their hearts.
They are back in the country they so proudly represent! A proud @Blitzboks team with their @Dubai7s trophy shortly after touchdown at @CapeTownAirport. Now for next challenge, the @CapeTown7s #nextlevel7s #GameOn @worldrugby7s @SteinhoffRugby @ASICS_ZA @CapeTown pic.twitter.com/Gm09pbDY45
“You have to get back into it as the game keeps evolving,” said Senatla, who ended the tournament with seven tries. “You need to keep on learning all the time. This is a special team and you want to play with these brothers ... these guys rejuvenate me.”
Smith, who was named Man of the Match in the final and who many feel should have been playing for the Boks in Cardiff, was equally pleased with the effort.
“It is nice to be back. It is easy to shine, as the guy next to you is doing the hard work, to allow others to be at their best. It was a good win, as we played against opponents with different styles and strengths. We must stay humble though and keep working hard.”
Next on the agenda is this weekend’s home tournament in Cape Town, a competition that has not always been kind to the BlitzBoks and Powell is hoping his team can iron out the errors they made in Dubai before kick-off this weekend.
“We did make some defensive errors, so there is work to be done if we want to be successful in Cape Town,” said Powell. “But, overall, I’m very happy. We will enjoy this win, but we have to start focusing on this weekend immediately.”
South Africa will play in Pool A in Cape Town, alongside Kenya, France and Russia