15 October 2012
The South African Sevens rugby team began their season on a positive note on the weekend, finishing third in the Gold Coast Sevens in Queensland, Australia after a strong showing that included a victory over defending HSBC World Series champions New Zealand.
Coach Paul Treu, a tough taskmaster, was encouraged by his squad’s showing, saying afterwards: “We only lost one game and that was against the eventual winners, but apart from that we really played well.”
Ruwellyn Isbell and Reuben Johannes made their national debuts, while Tshotsho Mbovane also made a welcome comeback after a long absence.
“Going into the tournament, I was a bit worried about our fitness levels because we had so many players coming back from injury. However, there was a real desire to play good attacking rugby and now we must keep this form in Dubai, where we will have a tough pool to navigate.”
The form team
The Blitzbokke were the form team of pool play on the opening day, turning in three excellent winning performances, with the final game being a comfortable victory over the Kiwis.
Kyle Brown and company opened with a 38-0 whitewash of Canada and followed that up with a 33-5 dismantling of the USA, who had made New Zealand work hard for a 19-7 win.
In the showdown against the New Zealanders for first place in the pool, it was all South Africa as the Blitzbokke shredded the opposition defence for three early tries and a 19-0 lead.
Gordon Tietjens’ charges got onto the scoreboard right on the stroke of half-time, but had the door closed on them by the South African team early in the second half as the Blitzbokke ran in two more tries to extend their lead to 31-7.
Two late scores by New Zealand gave the final score an air of respectability for the men in black at 31-21, but it was never close.
On day two, in the Cup semi-finals, Kyle Brown and his men secured a place in the semi-finals with a 26-14 win over France to set up a showdown with their nemesis, Fiji. It was a meeting of the tournament’s two form teams, although only South Africa entered the contest unbeaten. The Fijians had previously lost to Australia.
Ultimately, the contest was decided by a 14-point swing at the end of the first half. With South Africa dominating possession and the scores level at 7-7, they had the islanders pinned on their own tryline.
Cornal Hendricks found some space and appeared on his way to putting the green and gold into the lead. He, however, spilled the ball forward as he dived for the line and Fiji recovered. A swift counter-attack, started and finished by Joji Raqamate, saw Fiji turn 14-7 up instead of 14-7 down.
A couple of curious attacking options helped the islanders in the second half. They were down a man when Branco du Preez landed a dropped goal, instead of trying to take advantage of the extra man, and then South Africa kicked a penalty for touch and allowed Ilai Tinai back on the field by doing so, instead of running the ball with him off of it.
Third place playoff
The defeat left the Blitzbokke to face surprise semi-finalists Kenya for third place. The Kenyans’ earlier results had included a 14-14 draw with England and a 21-14 win over Australia.
It was never that close in the playoff game as South Africa dominated from start to finish. They ran in four tries without reply in the first half and went on to record a one-sided 41-7 victory.
Fiji lifted the title with a 32-14 win over New Zealand.
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