Im­pres­sive Blitzbokke win again

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

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.

PHOTO: TOM DULAT / GETTY IMAGES

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

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