RWC Sevens heartbreak for Blitzbokke

1 July 2013

The South African Sevens team dominated their pool at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow over the weekend, but came up short when they were narrowly beaten by their bogey team, Fiji, in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

Kyle Brown and company were on song in pool competition, not conceding a single point in wins over Russia (31-0), Japan (33-0) and Scotland (41-0).

The win over the Scots came at a price, however, with Brown, bizarrely being handed a six-match ban for a tackle in which he made contact with Michael Fedo’s eye. Brown had attempted a shoulder-height tackle, but had slipped upwards in making it. There was clearly no intent to injure Fedo, much less an attempt to make contact with his eye.

Disciplinary hearing

What ensued was a disciplinary hearing that lasted until 01:00 in the morning. The South African Sevens skipper was then handed a six-match ban. An immediate appeal resulted in another hearing at 09:00, after which the IRB released a statement reading: “The Appeal Officer did consider that the offence was low-end reckless conduct and therefore determined the original minimum ordinary sanction of six matches was disproportionate.

“He applied the exceptional circumstances provision to reduce the sanction further from the Judicial Officer’s six-match suspension (from a 12-week entry point) to two matches, noting that there had been contact with a vulnerable part of the body, being the eye, as a result of the reckless tackle, which necessitated an appropriate sanction.”

The bottom line was Brown was out of the quarterfinal showdown with Fiji, a team that South Africa has routinely lost to in quarterfinal matches and routinely beaten in finals.

Struggled

Minus Brown and the injured Frankie Horne, the Blitzbokke struggled in the set scrums and at the breakdowns as the Fijians put South Africa under huge pressure in both phases of the game. In the end, it proved to be difference in the match.

The Springbok Sevens team started well, though, and were on the scoreboard early after Cheslin Kolbe opened up the Fijian defence with some quick footwork to create space for Ryno Benjamin to crash over in the right hand corner. Kolbe’s conversion attempt from out wide was unsuccessful.

Fiji hit back in the seventh minute when Metuisela Talebula found space wide on the left and crossed for a try, which he was unable to convert, making it 5-5.

The hooter for half-time had sounded, but another kick off was necessary as it had come after the try had been scored.

Fijian lead

The islanders managed to turn over possession from the kick off and ultimately opened up the South African defence, allowing Samisoni Viriviri to run through for a try underneath the uprights. Talebula converted to give Fiji a 12-5 lead at the break.

South Africa came back well in the second half and put the Fijians under heavy pressure as the seconds ticked down. Eventually Sibusiso Sithole went over for a try on the left, but the Cecil Afrika failed to convert it and Fiji went on to a 12-10 victory shortly afterwards.

‘We are gutted’

“We really wanted to win this for South Africa and for Madiba, so we are gutted,” coach Paul Treu said afterwards.

“There were enough opportunities for us to beat Fiji here today, but for once our play at the break down let us down and they could extract penalties from our players becoming isolated.

“I am still very proud on the effort of the players. They showed their capabilities on the first two days, but we just did not complete the job today. We have no one but ourselves to blame for that.”

Women

The Springbok Women Sevens team, a surprise semi-finalist four years earlier in the World Cup in Dubai, failed to repeat their success in Moscow.

They finished third in their pool. After opening with a 12-5 loss to Ireland, they beat China 19-7 before Australia convincingly beat them 29-0, which put South Africa into the Bowl quarter-finals.

Up against Fiji, who ultimately went on to claim the Bowl honours, South Africa lost 22-5.

“We have disappointed ourselves and no doubt, our supporters too,” said Springbok Women Sevens’ coach Denver Wannies afterwards.

“This was not the way we expected the tournament to go for us. We did not play to our potential.”

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