The SA Rugby Sevens Academy made a fifth consecutive final appearance at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens International Invitational tournament on Saturday, but were beaten 17-5 by Esparanza 22 – an invitational side made up of players from New Zealand, England and Wales.
The South Africans scored three impressive wins on day one of the tournament on Friday and continued their winning ways on day two, with a 24-10 victory in their quarter-final against Ireland (who have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July next year) and a 45-0 win their semi-final against Froggies.
“That semi-final result probably cost us the final,” SA Rugby Sevens Academy manager Marius Schoeman said afterwards. “We played very well in that game and the margin of victory was well deserved, but we did not pitch up against Esparanza. Overall though, it a pleasing performance over the two days.”
Schoeman felt that a number of positives outcomes had been reached, saying. “The main aim of us competing here was to grow and develop the players in the Academy set-up. They will make mistakes and learn from that, so winning is not everything. The players are developing into the Sevens culture and some take longer than others to adapt.
“But I am pretty pleased that we laid a good foundation with this group,” Schoeman said.
“Some of these guys will be on the circuit soon, and we are also bringing in some new faces who just finished school.
“The squad will travel to South America early in January for two tournaments and that will be another learning curve for them.”
Although disappointed about losing the final, team captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi, felt the squad’s performance in general was solid.
“We are not making any excuses. We are a professional set-up back home and we worked hard for this, but the performance in the final was not what we trained for. The performances in some of the other matches were impressive though, and there was some reward for the work done back home. From a personal point of view, playing out here was very good.”
Soyizwapi, himself a former Academy recruit, urged the younger squad members to keep working hard.
“Management really give the guys the opportunity to show why they want to be Blitzboks and it is up to the players to show they want to make the step-up,” he said.