Following their poor display on Day One of the Las Vegas sevens tournament on Friday, Neil Powell’s charges came out on the second day and put together a great all-round display in dismantling England 29-12 with a commanding display.
There was little to point to the team’s inexperience, and it was especially considering that Powell gave the inexperienced youngsters a decent run in this match.
After all, he had said beforehand that it had become necessary to forfeit some experience and start building for the future.
The building blocks were seemingly in place judged by this operformance and the win put the Blitzboks first in pool C and qualified them for the quarter-finals.
However, as good as they were against England, where their swarm defence and cleanouts at ruck time plus the ability to link on attack, brought an unexpected and impressive win, so mediocre were they in the quarters against home team, the USA.
It was all over at halftime, with the Blitzboks trailing 0-19 and it became worse as the score climbed to 0-29.
Two very late tries by the Blitzboks gave the score line a little respectability at 10-29.
They now play off for the fifth place against Fiji on Sunday (22:28 SA time).
♦ The USA, New Zealand, Samoa and Argentina will contest the Cup semi-finals the fifth tournament of the 2018/19 World Rugby Sevens Series, according to the media release issued by SA Rugby Communications on Sunday.
It says the matches on Sunday will be significant for the overall standings, as all teams have their eyes firmly focussed on a top four spot on the overall World Series log, which will bring automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020.
Front runners, New Zealand and USA face each other in the Cup semi-finals at the Sam Boyd Stadium and will extend their lead on the table, but to the next four teams on the log – Fiji (72 points), South Africa (57), England (54) and Australia (47) – every result in Nevada will be crucial on the third and final day of the event, which kicks off on Sunday evening (SA time).
The Blitzboks will only benefit from the Cup elimination by the three other countries if they manage to beat Fiji and the winner of the England/Australia semi-final in the subsequent fifth place final.
Stalwart Werner Kok said he is frustrated by the Blitzboks’ inconsistency, who added that the players must front up to their set standards, according to SA Rugby’s media release.
“This is a player problem, not a system problem,” Kok said after play on the second day.
“We are the ones out there on the field and we need to fix this. The system works, but the people inside the system is letting it down.
“We need to work harder, our performances are not good enough. And it cannot continue like this,” said the former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year.
For Blitzboks assistant coach, Renfred Dazel, the lack of consistency is also the root cause: “The up and down performances of the day is the story of our season. We played such a wonderful technically correct and clinical match against England. And in the very next match against USA, we lose a scrum, we spill balls at the breakdown and we allow soft tries.”
Dazel said they are expecting a tough match against Fiji. “They will be very physical and we need to combat that.”
A call will be made on the fitness of Mfundo Ndhlovu on later on Sunday, before the third day kicks off, after he suffered an injury on the second day. If he is not available, Muller du Plessis will be called up, Dazel confirmed. The match against Fiji will take place at 22h28 (SA time) on Sunday.