The Blitzboks salvaged something from another frustrating weekend of World Sevens Series rugby by beating New Zealand 10-5 in the bronze-medal match at the Cape Town Sevens on Sunday.
After the previous weekend’s sixth-place finish in Dubai, the outcome was a step in the right direction for SA, but as many questions as answers were raised by the performance.
Fiji also bounced back from a mediocre performance in Dubai where they came fifth, beating the US 29-15 in the final. It was Fiji’s first win in SA since 2005 when the tournament was held in George.
"We were disappointed last week and we didn’t perform like we can, but we bounced back well here," Fiji coach Gareth Baber said. "We had a real battle against SA in the semifinal, but we came good."
The US, runners-up in round one in Dubai, are top of the overall standings on 38 log points. New Zealand, fourth in Cape Town and winners in Dubai, are second with 37 points. Fiji are up to third on 35 points, England are fourth with 30 and the Blitzboks have 29 points.
From an SA perspective, the Blitzboks were guilty of too many missed tackles and were bossed in contact against the physicality of Fiji and New Zealand. These are areas the SA coach Neil Powell will ponder as the team goes into the festive-season hiatus.
The Blitzboks lost their final pool game 26-21 against New Zealand in the dying seconds on day one and they suffered the same fate in the semifinal against Fiji, losing 17-12 to the last move of the match.
So victory over New Zealand to take third was a huge result in the context of a season where they have to finish in the top four to earn an automatic berth to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
After battling through the quarterfinals with a 21-12 win over a mediocre Scotland side, the Blitzboks had their chances against Fiji but faltered due to their own mistakes.
Fiji scored three tries in total, and all from scrums — two deep inside their own half, and both from simple missed tackles in the midfield.
First the wonderfully agile Vilimoni Botitu smashed through Werner Kok and Justin Geduld 70m out and then Waisea Nacuqu followed the same script from a scrum to brush Rosko Specman aside.
The Blitzboks managed to stay in the game with tries from Siviwe Soyizwapi and Specman, but their own errors cost them two more fine chances.