Cape Town — Calling the Springbok Sevens team’s performance in Singapore uncharacteristic is putting it mildly, and for Neil Powell, it came down to one thing — playing as individuals.
The Blitzboks missed out on their 12th consecutive semi-final at the National Stadium after crashing against Fiji in their quarter-final outing yesterday, which they lost 19-14.
Fiji won the Singapore title, beating New Zealand 28-17 in the Cup final. Despite their disappointing weekend, South Africa still top the standings.
On Day One, the South Africans beat Canada and Kenya, before losing to the USA in their last Pool A game.
That defeat set them up for a quarter-final against the islanders, and in their fifth-place play-off against Argentina, the Blitzboks’ woes continued as they suffered a 15-22 defeat against the South Americans.
“Those were very disappointing and it is tough to digest,” said Powell of the three consecutive defeats (USA, Fiji and Argentina).
“We played too much as individuals and too little as a team. Our strength lies in our ability to play as a unit and follow our principles and protocols, and we did not see enough of that this weekend.”
Powell also felt the team conceded too many easy tries, but added that the defeats were a good wake-up call.
“In the game against Fiji, for example, we were in control on the field, but the scoreboard showed different. And we conceded a soft try against them when they scored from a kick-off we blundered,” he said.
“This was a good wake-up call for us as the Rugby World Cup Sevens comes closer. We cannot think that we just have to pitch up to win. We will have to rectify that.”
Yellow cards also cost the defending Series champions, especially against Argentina.
“We will have to sit down and analyse why that happened,” Powell said. “The number of penalties conceded were too many, especially in our last two games, and we need to improve in that area,” Powell said.
Springbok Sevens captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi, also said that not playing as a unit contributed to their sixth-place finish:
"We did not perform as a team,” said Soyizwapi. “We did not keep to our standards or hold ourselves accountable out there. This is one that we will have to take on the chin.
“We only have ourselves to blame for this. It is frustrating not knowing why we underperformed, but we will have to have a hard look at ourselves. We never recovered from that first defeat, so we need to get ourselves mentally in order and bounce back next weekend.”
The squad started day two without Sako Makata and Lubabalo Dobela, who picked up injuries. A full medical assessment of the squad will be done before departure to Vancouver and, if needed, replacements from South Africa will be flown out for the Canada Sevens.
The top five teams on the log after five tournaments in the World Rugby Sevens Series:
98 - South Africa
83 - Australia
83 - Argentina
67 - USA
61 - Ireland