12 May 2014
The Springbok Sevens team, depleted by a rash of injuries, captured the Plate title at the London Sevens on Sunday to finish the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series in second place.
Already without captain Kyle Brown, star playmaker Cecil Afrika and Stephan Dippenaar, the Blitzbokke then lost rising star Werner Kok to injury at Twickenham. Still, they lost only their quarterfinal against eventual champions New Zealand, which was a tribute to the team’s depth. However, replacing star players with bench players does take a toll.
Unbeaten in pool play
Drawn in a favourable pool, South Africa went unbeaten in group action, thrashing Portugal 43-7 and France 47-7 before defeating Scotland 26-12.
Unfortunately for Neil Powell’s charges, an upset win by England over New Zealand saw the Blitzbokke drawn to face the Kiwis in the quarterfinals. Early in the season, the men in green and gold had the New Zealanders’ number, but late in the season, including on this occasion, it was the men in black all the way as they ran out 32-5 winners.
The defeat put South Africa into the Plate competition, where they faced Samoa in the semi-finals.
South Africa’s poor performance in the Cup quarterfinals continued in the first half of their clash against the islanders, who blasted into a 17-0 half-time lead with three impressive tries. However, a try by Philip Snyman in the first minute of the second half got the Blitzbokke back on track.
Seabelo Senatla added two tries and Branco du Preez a conversion to level matters and send the contest into extra time. The speedy Senatala then scored his third try to clinch a character-filled come-from-behind 24-17 victory for South Africa. That win set up a showdown with Kenya for the title after the Kenyans beat France 28- 19.
Former Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu had led the east Africans to a win over South Africa in Glasgow the previous week, but this time around it was all South Africa as they crushed Kenya 38-14 to claim the silverware.
Senatla added another three tries to finish as the top try scorer in London with an outstanding 13 in the Blitzbokke’s six games. The next highest try scorer, New Zealand’s Ben Lam, managed eight tries.
Afterwards, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said he was proud of the way his team fought back after their loss against New Zealand. “We set high standards for ourselves and the players wanted to show they can play much better,” he said.
“We showed good fighting spirit against Samoa after a poor first half. Against Kenya, we controlled the match from the start and scored a deserved win.”
During the season, South Africa reached five consecutive Cup finals, winning titles in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas. They topped the standings heading into Hong Kong, but a late season dip in the Blitzbokke’s form, which coincided with an injury to Kyle Brown, saw New Zealand run away to the overall title, as they won three tournaments on the trot.
It was New Zealand’s fourth HSBC Sevens World Series title in succession and South Africa’s second year in a row as runners-up.
WORLD SERIES STANDINGS
- New Zealand 180 points
- South Africa 152
- Fiji 144
- England 134
- Australia 116
- Canada 90
- Kenya 84
- Samoa 79
- Argentina 75
- France 68