The Blitzboks failed in their objective to reach the final in Las Vegas — the fifth stop of the 2017-18 HSBC World Sevens Series — but still managed to extend their lead at the top of the overall standings at the halfway point in the season.
Coach Neil Powell said prior to the Las Vegas and Vancouver tournaments that two finals would be an acceptable return considering his team was missing six front-line players. By scraping their way through Pool B against Wales‚ Canada and England, then beating Australia in the quarterfinals in Las Vegas‚ the Blitzboks were on track to meet Powell’s objective.
But losing 12-10 to Argentina in the Cup semis meant a bronze medal match against Fiji, which the Blitzboks lost 26-22 to finish fourth and claim 15 log points. That moved SA to 92 on the standings and extended their lead to 10 points over New Zealand‚ who could only end fifth in Las Vegas.
Fiji collected 17 points and are on 79, while Australia remains in fourth overall on 72 points.
The US beat Argentina 28-0 in the final after ousting Fiji 19-7 in the semis to become the fifth different winner in five tournaments this season. It underlines how the power centre of sevens is moving away from three or four teams to a much wider base since the sport was included in the Olympics.
The US’s upset win over Fiji at least allowed SA to move further ahead in the title race‚ but they have more injury concerns with Werner Kok and Branco du Preez both in doubt for Vancouver next weekend.
"We are looking for consistency and given the number of new faces and some injuries‚ we did well in that regard. We had a poor opening match against Wales on Friday and did not play our best rugby against Argentina on Sunday‚ but did well in the other matches," Powell said.
"We don’t always test measure ourselves on the results‚ but also the way we play. Obviously‚ we will have to improve come Vancouver‚ but our depth was tested very nicely today. We want the new guys to play against the likes of Fiji‚ England and New Zealand to see if they can make the step up."
Springbok Sevens captain Philip Snyman said the experience gained in Las Vegas will now have to be implemented in Vancouver. "We started to play better the more we played together‚" Snyman said.
"The learning curve is a steep one at this level and the younger guys will be better prepared come next week after this weekend.