The SA Rugby Sevens Academy delivered a day of up and down results in Punte del Este in Uruguay on Sunday, finishing sixth in the first of two legs of the Sudamerica Rugby Sevens series.
A 19-17 defeat to Portugal in the Cup quarter-finals knocked the South Africans off their perch as defending champions of the Uruguay leg of the series, but they came back strong with a 12-5 win over Canada in the Plate semi-finals.
The Academy side fought back strongly after losing Ryan Oosthuizen to a red card in this match and held on with six players on the field to secure a good win, in what SA Rugby Sevens Academy manager, Marius Schoeman, described as their best performance of the weekend.
The final, which was due to be played against the USA Falcons, was cancelled when heavy rains pounded the coastal resort city and it was the Americans who called correct when a coin toss decided the winner of the 5th-place final.
“We played well in that last match against Canada and will take the positives from that,” said Schoeman.
“We had two poor games, but in the bigger picture it is expected at times. We have a new squad here and the guys coming back from injuries also needed this tournament to get back into the swing of things, so overall it was a positive outcome, despite the results.”
The defeats against Uruguay in pool play (7-0) and Portugal (19-17) were disappointing, but in both matches the South Africans had opportunities which they did not finish off, said Schoeman.
“We needed to finish better in order to get those results – we also had some really soft moments on defence and it added up to frustrating defeats,” said Schoeman.
“I am pleased though with the way the team stuck to their guns in the match against Canada and I think the time on the field will be most valuable for us as a squad. One of our objectives was to give the young players game time in pressure situations and that happened out there.”
Chile, where the second event of the series will be hosted in Vina del Mar next weekend, won the final by beating Argentina. The Academy side has been drawn with Chile for that event, alongside Brazil and Uruguay. Pool B will consist of Argentina, USA Falcons, Canada and Colombia and Pool C will be Portugal, Germany, Paraguay and Russia.
Schoeman said the tournament in Chile will be another step-up for his team: “We have a very tough pool in Vina del Mar, but we have time to work on a couple of things and we will certainly be competitive come next weekend. We took some good steps forward here and it will show next weekend.”