The Springbok Sevens team continued with their consistent performances at the HSBC Canada Sevens this weekend, finishing third in the 2018 edition played at BC Place in Vancouver. South Africa finished runners-up in 2016 and 2017.
The podium finish helped South Africa to maintain their overall lead in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series although Fiji, who won in Vancouver, closed the gap slightly on the Blitzboks.
The Blitzboks arrived in Vancouver with a ten-point advantage over New Zealand in second place, but now lead Fiji by eight points, following the two North American legs of the World Series.
South Africa has 109 points, followed by Fiji (101), New Zealand (92) and Australia (84). The remaining tournaments are in Hong Kong,, Singapore, London and Paris.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said a number of positives came out of the tournament.
“We have very high standards and there were times when we did not achieved that. We did play very well at times and especially the comeback against Australia was very pleasing. I thought we were out of it, to be honest. But the guys kept their composure.”
Powell was forced to face Fiji without Ruhan Nel, ruled out through injury, with replacement player, Marco Labuschagne, coming into the team.
“Against Fiji we had the opportunity to beat them, but did not, so that is something we need to get better at. Against teams like that, you get that one chance and you must use it. Against the USA, it was the ideal opportunity to give the younger guys a chance and they responded very well. There were mistakes made, but that is how you learn and I was impressed by their efforts.”
The Blitzboks outplayed the USA 29-7 in the bronze final. The Americans scored in the opening minute when Malon Aljiboori dotted down for a converted try, but then South Africa took control. Zain Davids, Stedman Gans and Siviwe Soyizwapi scored in quick succession to give them a 19-7 lead at the break. A brace by Ryan Oosthuizen extended that lead into a winning total.
The semifinal against Fiji was decided in the last play of the match when South Africa lost the ball while going over the line for the winning try. The Blitzboks opened the scoring with a try by Philip Snyman, but that was cancelled out by Fiji scoring from the restart. Dylan Sage however, ran strongly down the touchline to score his fourth try of the tournament, which gave South Africa a 12-5 lead at the break. Two tries in the second half by Fiji saw them leading the Blitzboks 15-12, but unfortunately, South Africa spilled the ball on the line in the last play of the match.
The quarterfinal clash against Australia was a classic. A try after the final buzzer by Dylan Sage dramatically squeezed the Blitzboks past Australia in the Cup quarterfinals of the HSBC Canada Sevens on Sunday. The try sealed a 24-19 win over the Australians, who held a commanding 19-0 lead at the break of this pulsating match in BC Place.
Second half tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi (2) and Cecil Afrika cancelled the deficit and it was left to Sage to take South Africa into the final four for the sixth time in six tournaments.
Sage had a very strong tournament, not only scoring the most tries (4), but also making the most tackles. Sage (18), Branco du Preez (17) and Cecil Afrika (16) were the leading defenders. Overall, South Africa made the most tackles at the tournament (136).
They also lead the series in tackles made this far (744) and lead the try-scoring stakes, with 148 tries, with Australia (139) and Fiji (137) next.
•Branco du Preez kicked 13 conversions and scored 26 points in Vancouver to extend his South African mark for career conversions to 371, tenth on the all-time world list.
•Cecil Afrika extended his national record for points scored in the World Series to 1395, fourth on the all-time world list.
The top six teams in the World Series standings are:
1. South Africa 109
2. Fiji 101
3. New Zealand 92
4. Australia 84
5. Argentina 77
6. USA 73