Impressive Blitzbokke win again
The Blitzbokke went some way towards brightening up the South African rugby horizon by winning the first leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series yesterday.
With the 15s game in a right mess, Neil Powell’s men served first notice of their intent for the new season – which is basically not to finish second to Fiji until the last leg – by beating last season’s winners and the Olympic champions 26-14.
The win, which was achieved on the back of stinging defence and the Blitzboks relentlessly contesting pretty much every aspect of the game, means they come home to the Cape Town leg – which they won last year – this week on top of the log with 22 points, and Fiji in second three points adrift.
The Blitzboks scored four tries, two in the first three minutes, to Fiji’s two through Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez, Chris Dry and Seabelo Senatla. The latter was voted man of the tournament for scoring 11 tries from the six matches it took the team to win the event.
Most eye-catching about the Olympic bronze medallists, who boast no less than three World Sevens Players of the Year in Afrika, Senatla and Werner Kok in their starting line-up, was how welldrilled and ruthless they were in every aspect of the game throughout the tournament.
The performance is a welcome relief for long-suffering South Africa rugby fans, who have had to watch the Springbok side lose eight games this season, the most they have in history.
Earlier in the morning, after a day in which they’d kept a 100% win record in their group games against Uganda, Scotland and the US without needing to get out of third gear on Friday, the Blitzboks had looked positively ominous.
First to feel that were New Zealand, who look to have continued the downward spiral that meant their legendary coach Gordon Tietjens had to step down. The Kiwis were lucky to get nought in their 40-0 thrashing in the quarterfinal.
Granted, the once-were-sevenskings were poor, but the focused Blitzboks were on another planet. Philip Snyman’s men were all menace in defence, positively bossy at the breakdown, and so fleet of thought that half-chances were turned into definite chances taken.
Wales, who had impressed in getting as far as the semifinals, had the same treatment meted out to them in their 36-5 defeat. While Snyman has led well in his first tournament as the Blitzboks’ fulltime captain, Kok, Senatla (who else?) and former skipper Kyle Brown caught the eye.
Kok was hard-hitting in the tackle, rabid at the rucks and hardworking enough to still be on hand to round off his team’s moves with tries.
Speed freak Senatla – playing in his penultimate tournament before joining the Stormers for Super Rugby next year – has reached a scary place where he doesn’t look like he’s doing much, but he can’t stop scoring – as his 10 tries from five games by the semifinal stage attested.
Relinquishing the captaincy seems to have rejuvenated Brown, who looks the liveliest he has in a couple of seasons.
VICTORY South Africa celebrate with the trophy after beating Fiji on day three of the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens-HSBC Sevens World Series Cup Final match between Fiji and South Africa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates