24 March 2013
The Springbok Sevens team came up just short in their defence of the Tokyo Sevens title on Sunday, going down 33-26 to Fiji in a thrilling final which was decided only in the last 10 seconds of the contest.
In an outstanding, roller-coaster clash, the Blitzbokke showed impressive character to fight back after going behind to two early Fijian scores.
Ultimately, though, coach Neil Powell and his charges will know that had they been a little sharper, especially in the final offload, they would have won the title-deciding contest.
‘A slow start’
Looking back on the tournament, Powell said afterwards: “We had a slow start on day one and then I think the guys played especially well in their semi-final against England.”
The Blitzbokke went unbeaten in Pool B, beating Kenya 26-12, Japan 33-5 and Argentina 28-12 on the opening day. On day two, in the quarterfinals, they scored a narrow 17-2 win over the USA before a very impressive 17-0 victory over England in the semi-finals.
‘They were going to penalise us’
“We always knew Fiji was a good side and if we let the game get loose they were going to penalise us for that,” Powell said about the final.
“Maybe once or twice we made mistakes, which they capitalised on, but overall I’m really happy with the guys. They really showed some character and guts out there in the last two games.”
Looking ahead to the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens, which take place from 28 to 30 March, Powell said: “It is always our goal to get into the final and win it, so we’ll work smart and hard this week and hopefully we’ll reach another Cup final.”
South Africa have never won the Hong Kong Sevens, finishing as the runners-up in 1997, 2008 and 2009. However, they have appeared in five consecutive HSBC World Series finals this season.
‘Top of the log
Included in those five finals were title victories in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas, which has helped the Blitzbokke to a total of 116 points in six tournaments, and left them back on top of the log with three more tournaments left to play, in Hong Kong, Edinburgh and London.
New Zealand, who went down 21-12 to England in the playoff for third and fourth are on 114 points. Like South Africa, they have also won two titles, at the Gold Coast Sevens and the Wellington Sevens.
Third placed Fiji are on 95 points and won the Dubai Sevens to go with their victory in Tokyo.
England are in fourth on 85 points, Australia are fifth on 72, Samoa sixth on 59, and Kenya, under former Blitzbokke coach Paul Treu, are in seventh place with 57 points.
- Shield: Argentina 26, Samoa 0
- Bowl: Wales 28, Scotland 0
- Plate: Australia 17, USA 12
- Third place: England 21, NZ 12
- Cup Final: Fiji 33, South Africa 26