Blitzboks’ title hopes in tatters

The Blitzboks coach Neil Powell takes his player through their paces.
The Blitzboks coach Neil Powell takes his player through their paces.
Image: Martin Seras Lima

The Blitzboks’ season is rapidly unravelling after they finished fifth in Sydney to fall 19 points behind the pacesetters after four of the 10 rounds‚ leaving their title hopes in tatters.

The Blitzboks were eliminated in the quarterfinals by England‚ losing 26-5‚ which left them chasing the minor placings.

It was the second time they have failed to reach the semi-finals in the 2018/19 World Series. Last Year they made every semi-final.

New Zealand won in Sydney for their second title of the year after also winning in Dubai in round one. They beat the USA 21-5 in the final.

America’s consistency was in evidence again as they made their fourth straight final. The next step for the emerging sevens power is to win a final after losing twice to both New Zealand and Fiji.

But their consistency saw the USA move to 76 points in the standings where they share top place with New Zealand. Fiji are third with 72 points and SA a distant fourth on 57 points.

The Blitzboks ended the tournament well with a 12-10 win over Australia in the fifth place play-off after earlier in the day beating Spain 33-0.

Springbok Sevens coach‚ Neil Powell‚ afterwards said the inconsistency in performances in Sydney was frustrating.

“It was a frustrating weekend yes‚" he said.

"At times we played really good sevens‚ but too often we failed in some basics. We would have a good half and then follow that up by a poor one. If we can't get the basics right‚ we can't expect to play in finals and semifinals.”

The coach said the usual spark seemed missing at times.

“We were a bit quiet in the warm-up this morning before England and that is not the normal culture in the team‚" he said.

“We need to be mentally and physically ready for knock-out matches and that is something we will have a look at as we get back home and start preparing for the Las Vegas event.”

Powell refused to blame the lack of experience amongst the ranks for some of the errors made‚ but admits that lessons learned must be implemented.

"Look‚ you are going to make mistakes‚" he said.

"We had JC (Pretorius) on debut and Impi (Visser) in only his fourth tournament‚ so we must realise there is a transition taking place.

"We still need to cut out mistakes though. We conceded a yellow card again and you cannot play with six men against the likes of England‚ Fiji and New Zealand."

Powell said some honesty and frank discussions will follow when the team has its debrief.

"We need to be tough on ourselves in what is going wrong. Also in team selection‚ I think the players in form need to start‚ despite the number of tournaments or experience they have.

“We had too many slow starts in the tournament and that resulted in having to play catch-up rugby. Against the big teams that is fatal‚" he said.

The main focus still remains Olympic qualification with a top four finish‚ so we have to improve all the time‚” Powell said.

Powell‚ the current World Rugby Sevens coach of the Year‚ did take some positives from the win over Australia.

"We had to tough that one out and that was good. We defended much better and it felt a bit like the old days where teams really had to work hard to get a try against us‚” Powell said.

"From a wider perspective‚ there were no serious injuries and players such as JC and Impi got good tournament time under the belt."

Kyle Brown‚ who replaced the injured Philip Snyman in the match day squad‚ also took to the field to become the most capped Blitzbok of all time‚ passing the 68-tournament mark he shared with Frankie Horne.