It’s all good and well for SA Rugby Communications to point out in their official media communique that the Blitzboks, despite two drubbings in the last of their three matches on Sunday, improved their position to fourth on the World Rugby Sevens Series standings.
What is however not made clear at the outset of the media release is that the SA Sevens side let through ten tries, five in each match, in their semi-final and play-off for the bronze medal, and that they managed only two scores, one in each match, themselves.
A times in these two matches, they looked rather out of place against the vastly superior finishing off of chances and good coordination of their opponents.
The Blitzboks finished fourth at the New Zealand Sevens tournament in Hamilton on Sunday and moved up on the log after the third of 10 tournaments in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
In the play-oft for third place against the All Blacks, they were 7-0 up after three minutes, 7-14 behind at halftime and lost 7-29.
In the semi-final against Fiji they had lost by the same score, 7-29. They were behind 0-19 at the break, 7-24 with two minutes to go and conceded another try to lose 7-29.
In both matches, the Blitzboks struggled with the physicality of the winners. That was also the case in the quarter-final against Samoa, when they trailed by 7-12 at halftime but won 28-19 after they sorted this problem out against a much weaker team than Fiji and New Zealand.
Generally, the South African Sevens side were not nearly as slick as on the first day. Two yellow cards in the final two matches led to two tries by each of the opponents while the Blitzboks were a man short; they were hesitant and uncertain in their handling; and made too many tactically poor decisions on attack and also on defence, where too much space was given the opposition.
“We had a day of missed chances and silly errors and that cost us dearly,” the South African coach Neil 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 such as these, you cannot defend 80% of the time and only attack 20% and expect a result.
“We played very well in the second half against the Samoans,” said Powell.
“They targeted the breakdown in the first half and once we could retain some possession in the second, we controlled the game and won quite comfortably in the end. Maybe the easier games on Saturday did not do us any favours.”
Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman lamented on the missed chances against Fiji. “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.”
♦ Snyman and Powell are both confident that next week’s tournament in Sydney will see a better result for the team. South Africa will face Australia, Argentina and Tonga in a tough Pool D.
“We have a week to fix things – small tweaks are needed and knowing this team, they have the character to find something extra when the chips are down,” said Snyman.
Powell also reflected on some positives: “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.
Selvyn Davids was the leading points’ scorer for South Africa in Hamilton, with 28 points, while Werner Kok and Siviwe Soyizwapi each scored four tries.
♦ For the record: the Blitzboks are now fourth on the series standings, and the tournament was won by Fiji who beat the USA 38-0 on the final.
The pools for Sydney ‒
A: Fiji, Samoa, England, Japan
B: USA, Canada, Kenya France
C: New Zealand, Scotland, Spain, Wales
D: South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Tonga
Issued by SA Rugby Communications