10 December 2012
South Africa lost just a single game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament in Port Elizabeth over the weekend – a record not bettered by any other side – but it came at the wrong time and the Blitzbokke had to settle for third place in the third leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series.
After a sub-standard showing in Dubai, where the team missed out on the Cup quarterfinals, they lifted themselves to produce some excellent rugby, much to the delight of the home fans.
Captain Kyle Brown and Branco du Preez were sidelined by injury, but Frankie Horne stepped up and did a solid job leading the side, while Cheslin Kolbe, playing in place of Du Preez, grew in stature as the tournament progressed and ultimately played a starring role in the playoff win that secured the Blitzbokke third place.
A big difference
The return of Cecil Afrika, although he was clearly not yet back to full fitness, also made a big difference as he pulled the strings and gave the South African team width on attack.
After a superb opening day in which they won all their pool games, South Africa defeated the USA in the Cup quarterfinals, but then fell 12-5 to New Zealand in the semi-finals.
“It was very disappointing,” Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu admitted afterwards. “We had our chances and so had they, with the only difference [being] that New Zealand took the one that mattered.”
‘They gave their all’
Treu, though, must have been impressed by the wholehearted effort of his charges and he had good things to say about them. “I cannot fault the commitment of my players, they gave their all,” he said.
“It is a pity we could not do it for the crowd, who supported us so well. At least we finished strongly and gave a good performance in the bronze final.”
On the first day of competition, Saturday, the South African team got itself off to a flying start with a very impressive 29-7 victory over Samoa, who had won the Dubai Sevens a week earlier. They followed that up with a 12-5 win over France and a 17-7 defeat of Australia to finish the day top of Pool A.
Only Portugal in a much easier Pool D, which also included the USA, Canada and Zimbabwe, managed to match South Africa’s perfect record.
The Blitzbokke duly dealt with the USA in the Cup quarterfinals, easing to a 17-7 win, while Argentina shocked Fiji 15-12, France edged Portugal 10-7, and New Zealand thrashed Wales 35-5.
That set up a clash between the Kiwis and the Blitzbokke, with France taking on Argentina in the second semi-final.
South Africa were first on the board against the New Zealanders, but frittered away some chances and a late try by the men in black sealed a 12-5 win for Gordon Tietjens’ charges.
France, meanwhile, needed extra time to sneak by Argentina 10-7. The lengthy match took a lot out of both teams and it showed in the last round of matches.
The Blitzbokke kept a tired Argentina scoreless in the playoff for third place, running in five tries to stroll to a 35-0 win. Kolbe was the star of the show, dotting down three times, as he showed a good eye for a gap and excellent acceleration and speed.
New Zealand, too, had an easy time of it, thumping the French 47-12 to become the third winners in the three tournaments held so far in the 2012/13 Series, following Fiji’s win in Australia and Samoa’s victory in the United Arab Emirates.
It was a fourth victory in succession for the Kiwis in the South African leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series; they also claimed the title in George in 2009 and 2010.
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