DURBAN – was heart-break for the Blitzboks in Hamilton yesterday when they seemed to have the final against Fiji won only to succumb in the second half but the good news is that the South Africans are top of the World Series.
Coach Neil Powell’s team lead the HSBC World Sevens Series at the halfway mark. After four tournaments so far, each one having had a different winner to illustrate how tight the competition is this year, South Africa is top of the table with 77 points, with New Zealand second on 66, then Fiji on 62 and Australia on 60.
The current World Series champions departed Cape Town three weeks ago in second place, but after a relatively successful Australasian leg - losing finalists in Sydney and Hamilton - they top the Series and it is an achievement all the more commendable because they suffered a raft of injuries ahead of the New Zealand tournament.
Powell was disappointed in the result of the final but proud of his team’s efforts.
South Africa led 17-5 at half-time but then conceded 19 unanswered points. They could have gone further ahead early in the second half but made errors and Fiji scored, and then hit their straps.
“That is Sevens for you. We had an opportunity to score and did not, they countered and scored and then got the momentum,” Powel said. “One or two moments like that and the game is gone. It was a very good and gutsy performance by the team, the coach added. “We fought until the last minute, I cannot ask for more.
“We had a tough week, but the guys really got stuck in and tried their best.”
Powell said that to be leading at the halfway mark of the series, with four tournaments to go, was pleasing in a number of respects.
“We are also managing our players, as we have a big season in 2018. The decision not to risk Justin (Geduld) and Rosko (Speckman) in the final was because of the bigger picture,” the coach said.
“They need to be 100 percent come Las Vegas, as we are losing four players back to fifteens now.”
Seabelo Senatla, who scored eight tries at the tournament, said the players are pleased with the weekend’s effort, despite the defeat in the final.
“It was tough with only 10 players because our bench is important to bring new energy into the team, but we did well under the circumstances and I think we played better than was the case in last weekend’s final in Sydney,” he said.
“Of course you want to reach finals and win them, like we did last year in New Zealand and Australia, but reaching both finals showed some consistency in our effort and that is something that we are also looking to maintain,” Senatla said.