Bok Sevens strengthen lead in World Series despite Singapore stumble

The Springbok Sevens team, contesting the 8th round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series from 15 to 16 April, missed out on a golden opportunity to strengthen their grip on the overall tournament after coming up short at the Singapore Sevens.

South Africa won the Singapore round in 2004, but had their hopes of a second-ever title trounced courtesy of a shock 19–17 defeat to Australia in the Cup quarterfinal. Having had their chances of a shot at the title go a-begging, the Blitzboks then contested the 5th place semi-final and did enough to beat arch-foes, Fiji, 19–14. However, a backlash from two-time Singapore champions, New Zealand, who beat South Africa 17–12 in the 5th place play-offs, earned Powell’s men a 6th place finish overall.

Read Strong start top of mind for Blitzboks heading into Singapore Sevens

Despite the meagre showing, the team extended their overall lead in the standings, with only tournaments in Paris (13 to 14 May) and London (20 to 21 May) remaining. After starting the Singapore Sevens leg 23 points ahead of Fiji in second place, the Blitzboks now lead the South Pacific islanders by 25 points. England, who finished 3rd, moved closer to Fiji (separated by a marginal two points), but are still 27 points adrift of the Blitzboks.

A disappointed Blitzbok coach, Neil Powell, said, “Yes, that win over Fiji was a vital one and one of the success stories of this tournament for us. By beating them in that crucial match, we could actually extend our lead over them, which is a massive bonus for us.” Powell added. “We could also blood a number of youngsters; giving
them proper game time and there doesn’t seem to be any real injury concerns – those are all positives.”

Canada won their first-ever title in the series by beating USA 26–19 in the final, a result Powell was not surprised by. “A lot of teams seem to battle to pick up their performances after Hong Kong. We also saw it last year when Kenya won their first-ever title here, and this time it happened to Canada. It is a tough tournament to play and we did not perform the way we wanted. We did extend our series lead though and that could prove pretty important.”

Speaking ahead of the Paris Sevens, where South Africa will be pitted against Canada, Scotland and Japan in pool A, Powell said. “We have some work to do, that is for sure. We made too many mistakes in certain areas, but there is nothing hard work cannot fix.”

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings (top 5) after eight rounds:

1. South Africa – 157 points

2. Fiji – 132 points

3. England – 130 points

4. New Zealand – 110 points

5. USA – 101 points

Initial Story 15 April, 12 noon

With a 23 point lead in the series standings following on from their defeat in the final of the Hong Kong Sevens – the 3rd overall for the Blitzboks – a strong showing at the Singapore Sevens will be top of mind for Neil Powell and his troops.

The team will look to surge ahead with a strong start and an equally strong finish in order to keep ambitions of a second HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament win alive. The team won five out of their six matches in Hong Kong last weekend but lost 22–0 to Fiji in the Cup final. South Africa conceded only their 4th defeat in 42 contests as they were guilty of a number of basic errors in the match.

Also readPowell pleased with Hong Kong performance despite Blitzboks shortcomings
Ahead of their first match on 15 April, coach Powell has pointed towards the importance of starting well in Pool B against Japan. “We need to start well and build momentum from there, so in a way, the Japan match is the most important one of the tournament, as it will set the tone,” said Powell. “They are a dangerous side when given space, so our defense will have to be spot-on. If we are going to allow them to run around, we will have a lot of defending to do.”

The Blitzboks will then face France, another dangerous opponent according to Powell. “They played well against us last weekend in Hong Kong, where we won 17–10, and I think they will get a lot of confidence from that match. You never know which French team is going to pitch and that makes them a very tough opponent.”The final pool match will be against England which could also be a tough outing.

Three of the Blitzboks’ four defeats this season (and a draw) came at the hands of England, with the defeat in the Vancouver final last month the most recent. “Yes, they [England] are difficult to beat,” Powell conceded. “They are well coached and have the most experienced side in Singapore. They are very physical, but I think we lost against ourselves in the defeat in Vancouver.

Also readPowell hoping for strong Blitzboks showing in Hong Kong
“We played poorly in that final, so the challenge will be to trust our structures and systems. If we do that and cut out the basic errors we tend to make against them, we will be competitive,” the coach added. Springbok Sevens winger, Siviwe Soyizwapi, said the team is keen to rectify past misgivings. “In a way, we are lucky that Singapore is just a week after Hong Kong, which means we have a chance to fix things right away,” said Soyizwapi, who made his debut in Hong Kong last year and has featured in nine tournaments since, scoring 21 tries in the process.

“We have travelled well, the training sessions went well and we are ready to go out there and play for each other and for our country. “Singapore is very hot and humid, pretty much like Durban, but that will only be a factor if we allow it to be. All the teams play in the same conditions, so it does not really matter,” he concluded.

  AUTHOR
Tshepiso Mametela

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