The Springbok Sevens team improved their position to fourth on HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings after finishing fourth at the HBSC New Zealand Sevens tournament in Hamilton on Sunday.
South Africa moved up on the log after the third of 10 tournaments in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, a significant improvement as the top four teams will automatically qualify for the Rugby Sevens event at the Summer Olympics in Japan in 2020. Fiji and USA (57 points) lead the pack, followed by New Zealand (54), South Africa (44), England (38) and Australia (35).
The fourth place finish in the FMG Stadium Waikato, where the Blitzboks were runners up last year, came after a day of mixed fortunes and missed opportunities.
The South Africans opened the day with a 29-10 win over Samoa in the Cup quarter-finals, but had their title ambitions thwarted by overall winners Fiji, who beat them 29-7 in the semi-final. The hosts then defeated the Springbok Sevens team by 29-7 in the bronze final. These results did not sit well with Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell.
“We had a day of missed chances and silly errors and that cost us dearly,” Powell said.
“I don’t think Fiji and New Zealand are 22 points better than us, in fact, I feel we are pretty close to them, but the scores show how many mistakes we made.
“We conceded yellow cards in both those matches and in each, the opponents scored twice while we were a man down. We also did not look after our possession like we should. Against teams such as these, you cannot defend 80% of the time and only attack 20% and expect a result.”
The Blitzboks came from behind against Samoa, who scored twice in the first half of that match to lead 12-7 at the break.
“We played very well in the second half against the Samoans,” said Powell.
“They targeted the breakdown in the first half and once we could retain some possession in the second, we controlled the game and won quite comfortably in the end. Maybe the easier games on Saturday did not do us any favours.”
Against Fiji, an early try by the men in white set the tone and they were leading 19-0 at the break and 24-0 just after. Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman lamented on the missed chances against Fiji.
“We had some early opportunities and did not take it,” said Snyman.
“Then we made a number of small errors and were punished. The fact is, we were not good enough on the day and we have no excuses. We need to learn from this and make sure we don’t make them again.”
Snyman and Powell are both confident that next week’s tournament in Sydney will see a better result for the team. South Africa will face Australia, Argentina and Tonga in a tough Pool D.
“We have a week to fix things – small tweaks are needed and knowing this team, they have the character to find something extra when the chips are down,” said Snyman.
“It is not going to happen overnight, but a week in Sydney will give us time to work on that. We need to ask ourselves honest questions and have a clear vision of what we want to achieve next weekend.”
Powell also reflected on some positives: “Our squad came through the tournament unscathed and some of the other teams were not that lucky. We will have a good review of our performances and matches and take it from there.
“We are always looking for consistency and finishing in the top four is one of those boxes we want to tick. That was achieved and it was pleasing, but we will be looking for an improved effort in Sydney again.”
Selvyn Davids was the leading points’ scorer for South Africa in Hamilton, with 28 points, while Werner Kok and Siviwe Soyizwapi scored four tries each.
The pools for Sydney are:
A: Fiji, Samoa, England, Japan
B: USA, Canada, Kenya France
C: New Zealand, Scotland, Spain, Wales
D: South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Tonga