Blitzboks stumble in Hong Kong but stay fourth on overall standings
It seems a case of one step forward and two back for the Blitzboks after they finished a disappointing seventh at the Hong Kong leg of the 2018/2019 World Series on Sunday.
After topping pool A with some strong displays against Japan‚ Scotland and Samoa over the first two days‚ SA failed to reach the same standards in the knockout rounds.
They went into the tournament on the back of their first win of the season in Vancouver but the form they showed in Canada deserted them at crucial stages in Hong Kong.
They lost 21-12 to the World Series leaders the USA in the quarterfinals and then gave up a 12-0 lead in a fight for fifth with Argentina‚ losing 19-17.
Fiji went on to win the Hong Kong final for a fifth straight year and a 13th time overall‚ while the Blitzboks will have to wait another year to try and win a maiden Hong Kong title.
Fiji beat France 21-7 in the final, while the USA stayed on top of the standings with a 22-10 win over Samoa in the bronze medal match.
There was a sliver of good news as SA stayed in fourth on the overall standings‚ nine points clear of England in a race for one of the four automatic Olympic qualifying berths.
“It was a frustrating day‚” said Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell. “We did not make the step-up required after doing well on day one and two.
“The first half against USA‚ in particular‚ was one of missed opportunities. We did not use our chances‚ while we gave them two and they scored from both.
“It is frustrating to control the match‚ but not lead on the scoreboard‚” said the coach.
“This is something this group needs to learn. Against Argentina the same thing happened. The yellow card we received for a high tackle was crucial and we conceded a vital try.”
Springbok Sevens captain Siviwe Soyizwapi agreed.
“It was a weekend in which we did not play to our potential when it mattered‚” he said. “We did well leading into the knock-out stages‚ but we were not at our best when it counted. We can certainly improve.”
The Blitzboks held the lead in both matches. Against the USA‚ Impi Visser scored early for South Africa‚ before two blistering runs by USA winger‚ Carlin Isles‚ which first drew them level and then pushed them 14-7 ahead at the break.
Visser scored soon after the restart to cut down their lead to two before Ben Pinkelman scored to edge the USA ahead again. The final five minutes was a desperate affair‚ but neither side could score.
Against Argentina‚ tries by Soyizwapi and Branco du Preez had the Blitzboks up 12-0. A try just before the break for Argentina closed the gap and they drew level with a converted try after the restart.
Kurt-Lee Arendse then ran the length of the field for his first try in Blitzboks colours to nudge his team ahead 17-12.
Argentina got the crucial score and converted the try with less than a minute left on the clock. The Blitzboks attacked again‚ but a forward pass was ruled‚ ending South Africa’s effort.
The focus now moves to Singapore.
“The Singapore tournament provided many upsets in the past because teams generally use a lot of energy in Hong Kong and they can’t repeat that effort a week later‚” Powell said.
“The good thing for us is that we have another chance to correct the wrongs of Hong Kong‚ and we are looking forward to doing so next week.”