CAPE TOWN – The Springboks Sevens' 7-5 defeat to New Zealand in the final of the Cape Town Sevens sure was disappointing, but overall, the weekend did well to illustrate the squad’s improvement.
The side went into the ultimate match at the Cape Town Stadium unbeaten after securing wins over Japan, Fiji and the USA in the pool stages on Friday and Saturday, before going on to secure wins against Kenya in the quarter-finals and France in the semis.
New Zealand were the only other team to have won all their games in Cape Town.
Their successful run at their home event was a continuation of the form they showed in Dubai, where the Blitzboks, who are now tied with New Zealand on the World Sevens Series standings, won their record seventh tournament title.
Their appearance in the final this weekend meant that the Blitzboks have now played in both finals (the 2019-20 series is two tournaments young), and that in itself is a good stat.
After the Dubai event, coach Neil Powell said that he was concerned about whether or not the guys would find each other after struggling in the first few games.
Things got better as the weekend progressed in Dubai, and this weekend there were no such concerns. Two botched lineouts were the culprit in the final, not the team “not gelling”. And that is progress.
Considering the fact that some of the guys played in their first tournament of a year last week (it was Dylan Sage’s first one in three years) alongside younger, less experienced players, it’s serious progress. They looked like a unit.
The effort the Blitzboks put in during the Cape Town leg was also big, and another pleasing factor was how the Blitzboks got things done despite some shocking officiating in certain games, especially in the final pool game against the USA.
But they aren’t the only ones who would likely decline the chance to gift a ref or two a Christmas present.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens team were also on the receiving end of a number of questionable calls, but that wasn’t what coach Paul Delport will be focusing on when he reviews their first World Sevens Series tournament appearance since Dubai 2017.
They kicked off their maiden Cape Town appearance against one of the leading women’s teams on the circuit, New Zealand, and it was a match they lost 40-0.
Things looked better in their second, third and fourth games (they also edged Ireland and Brazil, both core teams in the series, into the ninth-place playoff) as they actually managed to score some tries and create opportunities.
The experience and learning curve were the most important thing for the Imbokodo, and while Delport was pleased with their effort, there were some things relating to performance he wasn’t too happy with.
The women’s side were eyeing a finish in the top 10 of the Cape Town leg, and while they achieved that (they faced Spain in the ninth-place playoff, losing 19-7 and placing 10th), this weekend showed that they still have some way to go naturally, I mean, some of the girls in the squad haven’t even been playing for a year.
A bigger focus on the women’s game would certainly help.