6 May 2014
A disappointing showing in the Glasgow Sevens on the weekend all but brought an end to South Africa’s challenge for the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series title.
The Blitzbokke were the form team earlier in the season, appearing in five successive finals. However, their recent form, in Hong Kong and Glasgow, has been scratchy at best.
Neil Powell’s charges topped the standings heading into Hong Kong, but a loss to England in the Cup quarterfinals led to the team winning the Plate final.
Cup quarterfinals loss
In Glasgow, it was worse as the Blitzbokke suffered a 12-7 shock loss to hosts, Scotland, in the Cup quarterfinals and then fell 14-7 to Kenya, coached by former long-time South Africa coach Paul Treu, in the Plate semi-finals.
While South Africa floundered in Hong Kong and Glasgow, New Zealand flourished, winning both tournaments to open up a comfortable gap at the top of the table. They go into the final round of the World Series in London this coming weekend with a 19-point advantage over second-placed South Africa.
The Kiwis are on 158 points, followed by South Africa on 139, Fiji on 129, England on 117, Australia on 97, and this season’s surprise package, Canada, on 82 points, in sixth place.
The Canadians made it to the Cup final in Scotland, but ran out of steam in the title-decider as New Zealand ran out 54-7 winners in a one-sided showdown.
Fiji finished third with a 17-10 defeat of Scotland, while England downed Kenya 26-5 to lift the Plate.
Despite the South African team’s below standard showing in Glasgow, Justin Geduld enjoyed a strong tournament and was deservedly named in the event’s Dream Team.
The focus for the Blitzbokke at Twickenham this weekend, after their successive poor tournament performances, will realistically be on securing their second place in the standings.
They have been drawn in Pool D with Scotland, France and Portugal, which appears to be a very favourable draw, provided they lift their game and play at or near their potential.
Loss of momentum
In Glasgow, the lack of accuracy in their passing stood out. Time and time again it led to the loss of momentum in South Africa’s attacking moves, and with that came the turning over of possession. Powell’s charges also looked uncomfortable in the wet conditions and did not challenge enough at the breakdowns.
They have a week to work on their shortcomings before the season-ending London tournament, and it is possible that they could receive two welcome boosts from regular captain Kyle Brown and Cecil Afrika. Both men, important contributors to the team’s successes, missed out on the Glasgow Sevens because of injuries.