Brilliant, brilliant Blitzboks!
Neil Powell’s charges won South Africa’s seventh title in the Dubai tournament of the World Rugby Sevens Series when they outplayed New Zealand in Saturday’s final, winning 15-0 after dominating possession and pressurising the All Blacks into mistakes.
They used these turnovers well, taking their chances to get out of tough spots and turn defence into attack whenever they could.
The Blitzboks win came despite some unbelievable defence by the Kiwis, but there was enough interplay, (mostly) good decision-making and opportunistic grasping of all the chances that came South Africa’s way.
The All Blacks, who had completed only six passes to 39 by just after halftime, came back in the second half to threaten the Blitzboks. But their attacks broke down on a number of occasions mostly because of handling mistakes, the last of which finally ensured the Blitzboks win.
New Zealand, urgently looking for a score with the score 10-0 to the Blitzboks, dropped yet another ball on attack. It was kicked forward by Seabelo Senatla who got the fortuitous bounce under control and ran untouched for 55 metres to make it 15-0.
The penalty count, as in most of their matches, again went against the Blitzboks, and this is definitely a facet Neil Powell has to address.
Try scorers were Shakes Soyizwapi (seventh minute) Chris Dry (10th minute) and Senatla (14th minute).
The Blitzboks won their quarterfinal against Argentina 12-5 and were again inclined to too many mistakes their discipline again a problem, as it would be in later matches. The breakdowns and (marginal) high tackles were the main problems identified by the referees.
South Africa nevertheless were well in control and 12-0 up at halftime before Argentina at last got their game together to put the Blitzboks under pressure on the field and on the scoreboard. They kept South Africa scoreless in the second half. But the final score was 12-5 and that was good enough to proper South Africa into the semi-final for a chance to win their seventh Dubai title.
The Blitzboks showed their best form of the tournament thus far when they trounced Samoa 38-7 in the semi-final. There was a slickness that had been missing before and the ball was taken wide more often in contrast to earlier games where Rosko Specman probably tried to force gaps too often with his quick feet and then reverted to the inside or short passes to supporting players.
Part of the game plan? Who knows, it worked well!
Specman was outstanding throughout and will be severely missed when he returns to the Bulls after the Cape Town tournament next weekend.
♦ But was Samoa a real test, one wondered after realising that New Zealand had beaten Samoa by a similar score, 40-7, in the pool phases.
Classy New Zealand
New Zealand looked like a classy side throughout. Perhaps not as good us under their famous coach Gordon Tietjens a few years ago, but they played the expansive game well, their support was outstanding and the looked good at the breakdown and on defence.
On Saturday they completely outplayed the USA 26-5 with the latter’s try coming in the last move. They then accounted for England, 19-12 in a tight game.
The two teams were locked up at 12-all with England drawing level in the 13th minute after the All Blacks had taken the lead at 12-5 just two minutes earlier. Then, in the 14th minute, when Salesi Rayasi scored his second try and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black converted for the second time in five minutes, New Zealand assured their place in the final
♦ In the play-off for third place Samoa looked a much better side that in their loss against the Blitzboks. They were the better side in the first half and pushed England to a close 19-17 win with the winning points coming two minutes before the final hooter.
Play-off results –
15th place play-off: Wales 28 Japan 12
13th place play-off: Kenya 26 Scotland 14
11th place -play-off: Spain 19 Ireland 14
9th place play-off: Fiji 40 Canada 17
Bronze final: England 19 Samoa 7