Neil Powell paid tribute to his team's gutsy performance in Singapore on Sunday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Neil Powell paid tribute to his team's gutsy performance in Singapore on Sunday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Our Singapore performance was gutsy, says proud Blitzboks coach Powell

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Apr 15, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – “You couldn’t write a script like this,” is one of sport’s biggest cliches. And the Blitzboks’ comeback victory against Fiji in Singapore yesterday deserves more than such banality.

Frankly, some moments to which the cliché’ is applied don’t even deserve the hype. The Blitzboks’ triumph did, though. But again, that phrase just doesn’t cut it.

What the Blitzboks did was fantastic.

That they trailed 19-0 at halftime and fought back in the second half something else.

The way the youngsters stood up when it mattered spoke volumes about their commitment, and defeating Fiji twice in one tournament is, in itself, noteworthy.

The Blitzboks, who have only won two of their 30 World Sevens Series Cup titles in Asia, scored 20 unanswered points to play the leading role in what should surely qualify as the final of the 2018-19 Series. It was a turnaround that won the UL Mark of Excellence Award.

Fiji looked unstoppable in the opening half as Aminiasi Tuimaba, Napolioni Bolaca and Vilimoni Botitu all converted the islanders’ dominant play into points to go 19-0 up at halftime. Until the break, Fiji had used their powerful defence to drive the Blitzboks backwards. Their physicality and clinical approach certainly went up a level compared to day one, when the Fijians lost two of their Pool games.

Halfway through the encounter, the most successful team in the history of the World Sevens Series looked like they were set to retain the Singapore title they won 12 months ago, something no other team has done before.

And when the ball popped out from under youngster Angelo Davids’ arm as he rounded Fiji early in the second half in what was the South Africans’ first real scoring opportunity, the prospect of Fiji going back-to-back in Singapore looked even more real.

Then came a Kurt-Lee Arendse moment... and on the road to the final, there had been a few.

The 19-year-old sparked SA’s fightback, before Davids, who was named Player of the Final, made no mistake this time and made it to the chalk that matters. Forward Ryan Oosthuizen crossed the tryline for the Blitzboks’ third try to take the score to 19-17. And then, in the final seconds, Selvyn Davids connected a late penalty to overtake Fiji (20-19) and win the title.

The Blitzboks went into the showpiece match of the eighth World Sevens Series tournament after defeating log-leaders the USA 24-12 in the semi-final after leading 12-0 at the break.

The Blitzboks scored four tries (including a penalty try) to progress to the final after beating Samoa 21-12 in the quarter-finals earlier yesterday.

On day one, Neil Powell’s team thumped Scotland and Canada 36-10 and 36-0 respectively, before concluding their Pool A proceedings against Fiji with a 17-7 win.

The Singapore result was only the Blitzboks’ second tournament win this season after a slow start to the series.

Powell was full of praise for his squad, who started the final without their injured captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi.

“It was a gutsy performance,” said Powell. “They never gave up. We spoke at halftime about the importance of scoring first after the break and that happened and the guys kept on playing.

“The young players are really coachable and listened to all the advice and instructions and it worked out for us in the end. I am almost speechless on how they pulled this one back.”


Cape Times

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