Cape Town — Despite finishing third at their home tournament in Cape Town‚ the second stop on the 2018/2019 HSBC World Series‚ there was an air of satisfaction about the Blitzbok camp.
The Blitzboks lost 17-12 to Fiji in the semifinals, but beat New Zealand 10-5 in the bronze medal match to close some ground on the overall standings.
It was an improvement on the previous week’s sixth place in Dubai, but SA still lost two matches — against Fiji in the semi and their final Pool match against New Zealand.
Fiji won the Cape Town leg with a 29-16 victory over the US in the final‚ but the Americans head the overall World Series standings after making the final in Dubai and Cape Town.
SA are nine points off the US after two rounds and fifth overall with 29 points.
In a year when the top four teams on the standings earn automatic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics‚ it is a worrying start for the Blitzboks.
Captain Philip Snyman‚ who missed day two in Cape Town with a shoulder injury‚ and coach Neil Powell though‚ do not seem overly concerned.
"We finished sixth in Dubai where we played poorly in our first four matches‚" Powell said.
"We started picking up some momentum and I think we improved further this weekend [in Cape Town].
"This is a good‚ positive way to finish the second leg of the series‚ with some momentum to take into the next leg in Hamilton in late January."
The Blitzboks played their final match with only 10 fit players after Snyman‚ Muller du Plessis and Zain Davids were ruled out.
"We started that match with only 10 players and played until the very last second of the match‚ something I am very proud of‚" Snyman said.
"Having conceded late tries against them [NZ] on day one and against Fiji earlier on Sunday in the Cup semifinal‚ the guys proved their determination not to do so again."
Blitzbok winger Siviwe Soyizwapi agreed with Powell and said it was a "much better feeling" than last weekend.
"We were competitive all along and had we played one or two moments better‚ we could have been smiling now‚" Soyizwapi said.
The World Series resumes in Hamilton in late January.