CAPE TOWN – Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell says he’s happy with the “70 percent improvement” his team showed to secure a third-place finish at the Cape Town leg of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series at the weekend.
The Blitzboks outplayed New Zealand 10-5 in the third-place play-off after being knocked out in their Cup semi-final clash against Fiji earlier in the day.
Against the defending Cape Town Sevens champions, New Zealand, the Blitzboks – who lost captain Philip Snyman and Muller du Plessis before heading into Day Two – scored two unconverted tries to the All Blacks Sevens’ one.
In the opening leg in Dubai, the Blitzboks’ defence, halted attack and at-times ill-discipline – especially against Argentina in their last match on Day One and in the Cup quarter against England - cost them, while the effect of the loss of a number of stalwarts was evident in the desert.
They managed to find their rhythm against Scotland following the England defeat, though, and followed that 29-0 victory up with another solid performance, although they lost, against Fiji in the fifth-place play-off.
In Cape Town, their intent on attack couldn’t be faulted, especially against Fiji in the semi, but it has to be asked what kind of impact the disruption brought on by injury and the rearrangement of players had.
“That was the big thing – we asked for an improvement (on the performance in Dubai) and we got it. I’m happy we could end with a win, I think it’ll be the guys’ confidence good,” Powell said.
“There were quite a few guys who played out of position, but we just asked them to get the basics right and fulfil their roles.”
South Africa vs Fiji
Against Fiji earlier in the day, the tournament hosts fell short 12 points to 17 in the Cup semi-final.
The Blitzboks looked threatening on attack with their probing runs right from the start, and they struck first with an early try by Siviwe Soyizwapi after Rosko Specman did well to attack the line and create space.
Fiji responded with two first-half run-ins by Vilimoni Botitu and Waisea Nacuqu, which gave the Islanders a 12-5 lead at the break.
Fiji scored another the last minute to break South African hearts at Cape Town Stadium.
On that game, Powell said: “It was one of those games that could have gone either way, unfortunately we had an opportunity in those last stages and we didn't take it. And when it comes to the playoffs, you only get so many."
South Africa 21 - 12 Scotland
In their first task of Day Two, the Blitzboks beat Scotland 21-12 in the Cup quarter-final to book a last-four spot against Fiji.
Kyle Brown led the Blitzboks after Snyman was ruled out with injury. The scores were tied at 7-all at the break.
The Blitzboks ran three tries through Justin Geduld, Rosko Specman and Werner Kok.
Geduld succeeded with all three conversions to see the hosts to the semi-finals.
Scotland got on the scoresheet through a brace by Sam Pecqueur, with Gavin Lowe adding the only conversion.
Blitzboks Pool A results:
On Saturday, the Blitzboks defeated Zimbabwe (43-0), Samoa (22-12) and lost to New Zealand (26-21) in their Pool A games.
Powell added that he's pleased with the improvement considering the injury situation and the loss of the likes of Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage, Seabelo Senatla, Tim Agaba and Kwagga Smith to the 15-man game.
"We were a lot better than were in Dubai. I think the kind of rugby we played was 60 or 70 percent better, and that's what we asked of the guys. Success isn't always the result, it's the implementation of processes. Like I said, we'll keep on striving towards that perfect game."
"We have to look at every area we can improve in. The other teams do their analysis and they always get better, but that's sport for you. You will lose, you won't always be at the top, but you have to keep improving."
"There's seven changes to the team that played here last year, so we must realise where we are as a team."
"We must realise where we are. Ending sixth last week and third now isn't where we want to be, so we need to make the set-up and come back. And we'll ask them to do the same in Hamilton. As long as we keep on improving, we'll be happy."
The World Sevens Series will resume in Hamilton, New Zealand, on January 26 and 27, 2019.
Cape Town Sevens Top 5 results:
3 South Africa
4 New Zealand
Sevens World Series Round three
Round three of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series takes place at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand, 26-27 January 2019.
The Blitzboks were drawn with Scotland, France and Kenya in Pool C.