Blitzboks in danger of missing automatic Olympic qualification
Dismal showing in Las Vegas sees SA slip to fifth spot in Sevens Rugby title chase
The Blitzboks are in danger of missing out on automatic Olympic qualification after a dismal weekend at the Las Vegas Sevens saw them slip to fifth on the standings.
SA recorded their worst World Series result of the season — and their worst display since Glasgow in 2014 — by finishing joint-seventh with Australia.
As a result they only earned 10 log points and now have 67 points after five rounds. That leaves them in fifth behind England who have 68 points while the US are surging ahead in the title race on 98 points after winning in Vegas.
It was the US’s fifth straight final of the season‚ but their first win of the campaign as they thrashed Samoa 27-0 in front of a boisterous home crowd at the Sam Boyd Stadium. Earlier the US beat New Zealand 24-19 in the semifinals to set them on the way to retaining their Las Vegas title.
The top four teams at the end of the 10-leg World Series gain automatic qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. SA are now out of the top four for the first time since the 2011/12 season.
After a weekend which saw them draw 5-5 with Chile and lose 29-12 to the US in the quarterfinals‚ the Blitzboks lost their fifth place playoff 14-12 against Fiji.
A slow start again forced the South Africans into catch-up rugby as Fiji scored in the opening minute to take a 7-0 lead. Ryan Oosthuizen pulled one back three minutes later to cut the lead to two points‚ but Impi Visser was yellow-carded for a high tackle and Fiji exploited the numbers for a 14-5 lead at the break.
The second half saw some determined defence by SA and with a strong contribution on attack from the bench. JC Pretorius scored with a blistering run and when Selvyn Davids converted‚ it was a two-point game with three minutes left. It went to the last play as the Blitzboks searched for the winner‚ but it ended metres from the Fiji line where the South Africans were penalised while on attack.
Blitzbok coach Neil Powell said the result was frustrating‚ but he did not fault the effort of the players.
“They gave it all out there and I am pleased with the effort‚” said Powell. “We made some errors on attack‚ but I told the guys before the match that we should finish it knowing we executed and gave our all. It was a bit frustrating that we could not quite get the first one right. Our decision making was lacking a bit in the final minutes.”
Powell said the experience gained by the youngsters such as Pretorius and Sako Makata will benefit the team: “The only way for them to become better is to play and learn and from that perspective‚ they got some good game time this weekend.”
Siviwe Soyizwapi said the squad would digest what went wrong and come back stronger for Vancouver.
“It was a very up and down weekend for us and we need to fix that‚” said Soyizwapi. “We managed to do a few good things‚ but errors again cost us. We need to fix that and make sure we stick to our processes. All is not lost and we can still bounce back.”
Zain Davids and Kurt-Lee Arendse have been called up to the Springbok Sevens team to do duty in Vancouver‚ Canada, this weekend. Davids‚ who has played in 17 tournaments for the Blitzboks‚ will replace injured Ryan Oosthuizen in the forwards‚ while the uncapped Arendse joins the squad due to an injury to Mfundo Ndhlovu.