CAPE TOWN – There didn’t seem to be a dense air of disappointment in the Blitzbok camp following their bronze-medal finish at the Cape Town leg of the World Sevens Series at the weekend. And seeing as it’s an obvious improvement from their sixth-place finish in Dubai in last week’s opening tournament, it’s probably understandable.
But in a year when the top four teams on the standings earn automatic qualification for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, every result matters. Following the Cape Town tournament, the Blitzboks are nine points behind log-leaders, the USA and fifth overall.
So, with the Series on a break until the third tournament kicks off in Hamilton in January 2019, here are three ways the defending Series champions can make the step-up.
Get that gelled look
In the first tournament in Dubai especially, the impact of the loss of some of the more experienced players could be clearly seen from the most remote spot in the highest row of seats at the Sevens Stadium. After losing the likes of Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage, Tim Agaba and Kwagga Smith to the 15-man game, the rebuilding phase with the remainder of the core group and younger players was always going to take some time.
Besides, it’s not like the Blitzboks can just flip the switch and suddenly start gelling like nothing changed. That will take time. But it certainly would help.
Things looked better in this regard in Cape Town than it did in the desert city, but there’s still a number of boxes to tick before this Springbok Sevens team will start to resemble the unit they were last season.
Following the Dubai event, Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said their attack was one of the prime areas of concern ahead of their home tournament. For Powell, the fact that they failed to string together more than three phases on attack a number of times was one of the major issues. And in front of the Cape Town crowd at the weekend, more fluidity and better ball retention could be seen.
They produced some good, probing runs on day two, and while they left a few opportunities out there, it was a more alarming sight in Dubai.
Ditch the dodgy defence
The Blitzboks’ defence was a worrying sight last weekend as they just missed too many first-time tackles, slipped off and sometimes put themselves in the red by going in high. It was particularly disappointing against England in the quarter-finals in the opening leg, but things looked better in South Africa.
Again, fulfilling certain roles is something that some of the guys still need to get used to (as with all the other areas), but if the Blitzboks’ can rewind to their defensive efforts of the last few seasons when they touch down in New Zealand, this rebuilding side just may find themselves sooner rather than later.
What you should know
Round three of the Sevens World Series
Following Dubai and Cape Town, the Series continues in Hamilton, New Zealand 26-27 January, 2019
South Africa has been drawn in Pool C and will play Scotland, France and Kenya
World Sevens Series Standings
1. USA 38 points
2. New Zealand 37
3. Fiji 35
4. England 30
5. South Africa 29@WynonaLouw