What went wrong with the Blitzboks?

What went wrong with the Blitzboks?

In a topsy-turvy tournament where some of the favourites were shown up by unlikely teams, the Springboks poor showing saw move down to a shared second place on the standings with some niggling questions remaining.

There were seven changes to the squad that played in Cape Town where the Blitzboks were runners-up after they had won the Dubai tournament the previous week.

Five of the changes were necessitated by the return to their Super Rugby franchises and the injury to captain Shakes Soyizwapi plus rotations.

However, the return of three stalwarts and heroes Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez and Werner Kok particularly did not bring the expected success. In fact, these three were rather disappointing.

Whatever went awry in the team’s cohesion and especially their defence, always one of the Blitzboks strengths, wasn’t good enough for more than a tenth place. They won only one of their four matches, losing to England (19-21), Kenya (14-36) and Fiji (5-12) and beating only lowly Japan (31-5) and scored 11 tries while conceding 12.

The poor performances, coupled with New Zealand winning their home tournament after their Cape Town success, saw the Blitzboks drop to joint-second spot on the overall World Rugby Sevens Series standings after three tournaments of 10 played. The Kiwis, who beat France by 27-5 in the final, top the log with 63 points, followed by South Africa and France (48 points each).

SA Rugby Communications report that the Springbok Sevens management and players took full responsibility for their 10th place finish at the New Zealand Sevens on Sunday, admitting that it was a very disappointing performance and way below their regular and proud standards.

The Blitzboks lost 36-14 to Kenya in their final Pool B match and then went down 12-5 to Fiji in the 9th place playoff in Waikato.

Kenya's victory over the Blitzboks came after 14 consecutive wins for the South Africans, and two tries in the last two minutes by Fiji meant the Hamilton tournament ended in misery for Neil Powell and his squad. 

It was a frustrating weekend for Powell in which the Blitzboks lost three matches in a row, a statistic that will hurt the squad, who came into the tournament on the back of 11 wins from their last 12 matches.

“We were just poor against Kenya, with our basics not on par,” said Powell about the performance that saw the Blitzboks go down 19-0 in the opening half.

“If you can't even win kick-offs you are in trouble. We were also playing catch-up rugby from early on and forced the game a bit, which again created mistakes they capitalised on.”

 “The unpredictability of sevens again showed. Sometimes you have a good week and a poor tournament, like this one, other times a bad week resulted in a good tournament,” Powell reflected.

For Powell, there was some silver linings in the match against Fiji.

"Yes, there were some positives from that match, and we can take that into Australia,” said Powell.

“We managed to improve our control and it gave us some momentum to take to Sydney. The lack of finishing was still present though, but that was sort of the theme of our weekend. We could not finish the numerous opportunities we created and that was clearly not good enough.”

They have no choice but to improve next week, Powell insisted: “We will have to plan this coming week accordingly. We will review what and why happened here and take it from there.”

The Blitzboks depart for Australia on Monday, where they will start their preparations for the HSBC Sydney Sevens.

World Series standings after three tournaments –

1 New Zealand 63
2 South Africa 48
2 France 48
4 England 39
5 Argentina 35
5 Australia 35