CAPE TOWN – The Blitzboks might have moved up to fourth place on the standings, but it's an improvement that was certainly overshadowed by their Cup semi-final performance against Fiji in Hamilton at the weekend.
The Blitzboks cruised past their Day One opponents as they defeated Kenya 29-10, schooled France 17-5 and overpowered Scotland 26-7 in the third of 10 tournaments, before overcoming Samoa - who stunned England 12-10 on the opening day - 28 points to 19.
But in the last-four challenge against the Pacific Islanders, the Blitzboks didn't seem to have gone into the match with much of a plan on attack, while they also conceded a number of cheap turnovers.
Fiji - who ultimately went on to win the New Zealand event - thumped the South Africans 29-7 in their semi-final meeting before the hosts defeated the Blitzboks 29-7 in the bronze final.
Blitzboks out for their warm-up ahead of the Cup QFinal v @manusamoa @NZ_Sevens this morning. Kick off is at 00:58 SA Time. Put on the coffee, get comfortable and brace yourself, it is going to be a cracker ! @FNBSA @CastleFreeSA @ASICSRugby @ASICS_ZA pic.twitter.com/spcGonwP8M— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) January 26, 2019
Ahead of the Hamilton leg of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series, Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said that - after finishing sixth in Dubai and third in Cape Town - his focus was more on improvement in terms of performance as opposed to results.
And while Powell lamented the mistakes his side made against Fiji and New Zealand, the fact that they managed to crack into the top four is at least one pleasing aspect gained in Hamilton.
The top four teams will automatically qualify for the Summer Olympics in Japan in 2020.
“We had a day of missed chances and silly errors and that cost us dearly,” Powell said. “I don’t think Fiji and New Zealand are 22 points better than us, in fact, I feel we are pretty close to them, but the scores show how many mistakes we made.”
“We conceded yellow cards in both those matches and in each the opponents scored twice while we were a man down. We also did not look after our possession like we should. Against teams like these, you cannot defend 80% of the time and only attack 20% and expect a result.”
Coach Neil Powell comments on #Blitzboks performance at @NZ_Sevens where they finished top four and moved up the @WorldRugby7s series log. Consistency 👍 mistakes on Day Two 👎. Now to rectify before Sydney. #WePlayForYou @Neil5Powell @CastleFreeSA @FNBSA @ASICSRugby pic.twitter.com/V9HyRZKnBc— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) January 27, 2019
The Series will resume in Sydney this weekend, and it's a tournament the Blitzboks will target to check more performance-based boxes.
”Our squad came through the tournament unscathed and some of the other teams were not that lucky. We will have a good review of our performances and matches and take it from there.
“We are always looking for consistency and finishing in the top four is one of those boxes we want to tick. That was achieved and it was pleasing, but we will be looking for an improved effort in Sydney again.”
Blitzboks captain Philip Snyman lamented the missed opportunities that cost them in Hamilton.
“We had some early opportunities and did not take it,” said Snyman.
“Then we made a number of small errors and were punished. The fact is, we were not good enough on the day and we have no excuses. We need to learn from this and make sure we don’t make them again.”
The pools for newt weekend's Sydney are:
A: Fiji, Samoa, England, Japan
B: USA, Canada, Kenya France
C: New Zealand, Scotland, Spain, Wales
D: South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Tonga
The Top Five World Series points standings:
New Zealand 54
South Africa 44