Blitzboks must overcome poorest start in seven years

Blitzboks must overcome poorest start in seven years

The Blitzboks go into the third tournament of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series following the team’s worst start since 2012.

A poor start is not the usual recipe for series success, although South Africa have recovered from there to take second place on a number of occasions. However, these catch-up positions to take the second place on the series table were never close to the winners’ tally.

Their best series performances and wins followed good early results by the Blitzboks.

In short, South Africa have to make up for lost ground in this weekend’s tournament in Hamilton when New Zealand host the first of the two World Rugby sevens-spectacles Down Under.

The Blitzboks garnered only 29 points, fifth most, behind the USA (38), New Zealand (37), Fiji (35) and England in the two December tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town.

The Blitzboks, who departed on their trip Down Under on Friday, have as a team adopted the slogan (and hopefully the positive attitude to go with it) of No Excuses Trip for their Down Under foray.

The team, however, does have much going against them. Factors such as travel times, time zones or personal discomfort following the long flight, are a reality.

The Blitzboks, who in this series aim for a hat-trick of wins following their series wins in 2016/17 and 2017/18, have not been as far behind the leaders since 2012 following the first two tournaments as is the case at present.

  • In 2012, after the first two tournament of the 2012/13 series, the Blitzboks were 15 points behind New Zealand who won that year with South Africa finishing fifth on the series table.
  • In 2013 they trailed New Zealand by 14 points following the first two rounds. The Kiwi’s won the 2013/14 series by 41 points, with South Africa in second place. It is fair to say that, despite their three titles in the ten tournaments, the Blitzboks were too inconsistent in this series.
  • When Fiji won the 2014/15 series, South Africa were only one point behind them after the first two tournaments in 2014 but never challenged for top honours and finished a disappointing 28 table points behind Fiji.
  • In 2015 the early difference was only two points, with Fiji again taking the final honours.

South Africa were still in with a chance of a series win with two tournaments remaining.  The Blitzboks then faltered in Glasgow and London and finished ten points behind winners Fiji in the 2015/16 series.

  • In 2016 the Blitzboks and Fiji both had 35 points after two tournament. Fiji won the 2016/17 series by ten points.
  • The following year, in 2017 the Blitzboks had 41 table points after two tournaments, nine better than Fiji. South Africa were the 2017/18 winners with five tournament wins and also three silver medals to win the series by 28 points ahead of second-placed Fiji.
  • And then they won the 2018/19 series with their win in the very last tournament. They were two points behind the Kiwi’s following the first two tournaments in 2018 but then made up the backlog with a series of consistent performances.

Fiji won five tournaments and a silver medal in the series. The Blitzboks, on the other hand, won only two tournaments, but added three each silver and bronze medals to their tally with the must-win final tournament going their way.

The pipped the Fijians by just two points on the final series standings after the Fijians could do no better than fifth place in the final tournament.

♦  On Friday (SA time), the Blitzboks play Kenia at 23:22 in the first of their three pool rounds, followed by France (03:10 Saturday morning) and then Scotland (07:22)