31 March 2014
The Springbok Sevens team failed to fire at the Hong Kong Sevens and had to settle for winning the Plate final on Sunday after a disappointing exit from the Cup in the quarterfinals. It was their worst result of what has so far been a very impressive season.
England, who were 14-7 winners over South Africa in the quarterfinals, went down 26-7 to New Zealand in the Cup final, which meant the Kiwis moved back above the Blitzbokke to the top of the standings, with 136 points to South Africa’s 129.
Fiji, who finished third with a 21-12 win over Australia, lie third with 112 points, while England are on 102. Two tournaments remain on the schedule, in Edinburgh and London.
‘An important one for us to win’
“It was an important one for us to win,” coach Neil Powell said of the Plate final afterwards.
“We knew when we lost in the quarterfinals, we needed to win the Plate to get the points on the Series log, and I think it was a great experience for the youngsters as well because we didn’t have a lot of subs, and we needed the youngsters to come in and play, and they really did a great job.”
‘It’s going to be a huge challenge’
“Look, it was not the ideal outcome and we have now placed ourselves in a difficult position because we will have to make up seven points or more against New Zealand. It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I am glad we are not completely out of the race yet,” said stand-in captain Frankie Horne, who took over from Kyle Brown after the regular skipper was injured in South Africa’s first game, a comfortable 31-7 win over France.
Later in the event, the South Africans also lost Cecil Afrika, Philip Snyman and Seabelo Senatla to injuries.
‘Putting up their hands’
“If you lose your captain in the first game after three minutes, and then another two senior players on day one and two, then you have to go into the third day with only nine players. That’s always going to be tough, but credit to the youngsters, Kwagga [Smith] and Werner [Kok], for coming into the team in a difficult situation and really putting their hands up and showing they really want to be in this team,” Powell commented.
Following their win over France, the Blitzbokke faced Spain and roared into a 22-0 lead early in the second half. However, they then began to lose their way, eventually settling for a 22-14 victory.
Powell’s charges faced Australia to decide first place in Pool B and another error- strewn performance cost the South Africans, who conceded two early tries before working a late reply by Senatla. It was not enough and left them 10-7 losers.
That defeat set up a quarterfinal clash with England and the Blitzbokke again were again not at their best. They created enough chances to win, and having what looked like a try by Chris Dry disallowed by the referee did not help, but once more they let slip good scoring opportunities and England scored deep into the second half through Jack Clifford to take the win.
Up against the USA in the semi-finals of the Plate, South Africa raced into a 17-0 half-time lead and a try at the start of the second half from Jamba Ulengo, converted by Justin Geduld, made it 24-0. It should have been all over bar the shouting, but the Blitzbokke let their standards slip and almost paid for it as the Americans ran in three unanswered tries to make the final score 24-19.
The final, against Wales, was another struggle for South Africa, who trailed 14-5 at half-time. A converted Kwagga Smith try just after the restart brought the Blitzbokke to within two points of the Dragons, and a Jamba Ulengo try, which was also converted by Geduld, secured a not altogether convincing 19-14 win and the Plate title.
WORLD SERIES STANDINGS
- New Zealand 136
- South Africa 129
- Fiji 112
- England 102
- Australia 87
- Samoa 64
- Canada 63
- Argentina 61
- Kenya 60
- Wales 57