Cape Town – Injuries again took its toll as the beleaguered Blitzboks endured another tough day on the World Sevens Series circuit on Saturday as they were knocked out of the Singapore Sevens cup competition.
They went down 19-0 to Australia in their opening game, and then hit back to beat Hong Kong 31-12 in their second encounter.
But with New Zealand having won both their matches, it meant that the Springbok Sevens team had to beat the Kiwis by 30 points to advance to Sunday’s Cup quarter-finals.
And what made matters worse for coach Sandile Ngcobo was the fact that his injury-depleted squad had to operate without three more players who had ailments – Shaun Williams, Ricardo Duarttee and Tiaan Pretorius, having already used 28 in total this season.
But despite the tall task, the South Africans gave a good account of themselves against New Zealand. Although they lacked a bit of speed on attack – with only Jaiden Baron and Mfundo Ndhlovu really possessing real gas – they were able to put a few impressive passages of play together.
Ndhlovu made an early break and found Christie Grobbelaar, but the ball was turned over in the opposition 22, while Sebastiaan Jobb had some promising moments too.
The Blitzboks were rewarded for their efforts when Baron produced a superb offload for Ndhlovu to grab the opening try after five minutes.
But the joy was short-lived, as the Kiwis struck before halftime when the powerful Lewis Ormond sliced through and put Dylan Collier away to level matters at 7-7.
The SA ball-carriers continued to retain possession in the second half, but it seldom led to a scoring opportunity as they were unable to breach the New Zealand defence.
It was Amanaki Nicole who made the decisive play for the Kiwis, running an excellent line off a smart move and breaking through before finding Cody Vai, who had enough pace to score and clinch victory.
The Blitzboks’ quest for automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics will now be affected, with just two more events to go in Toulouse and London.
With the top four teams advancing to the Olympics, they started the Singapore tournament in fifth position, but now Australia and Samoa will surpass them as they both reached the Cup quarter-finals.
The best outcome the South Africans can hope for is to finish ninth and gain eight points. They will begin that process against Ireland in a ninth-place quarter-final at 5.56am SA time on Sunday.
Blitzboks 7 – Try: Mfundo Ndhlovu. Conversion: Jaiden Baron (1).
New Zealand 12 – Tries: Dylan Collier, Cody Vai. Conversion: Tepaea Savage (1).
Blitzboks 31 – Tries: Impi Visser, Mfundo Ndhlovu (2), Sebastiaan Jobb, Ethan James. Conversions: Ricardo Duarttee (3).
Hong Kong 12 – Tries: Max Herbert, Liam Herbert. Conversions: Bryn Phillips (1).
Blitzboks 0, Australia 19 – Tries: Henry Paterson, Nathan Lawson, Dietrich Roache. Conversions: Maurice Longbottom (2).
Singapore Sevens Cup Quarter-Finals (all SA times)
6.18am: Samoa v Uruguay
6.40am: Argentina v Australia
7.02am: France v Fiji
7.24am: New Zealand v Great Britain