Blitzboks stumble in London but book Tokyo 2020 slot
Olympic qualification eases disappointment of poor London tournament
The Blitzboks have secured their place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics despite a lacklustre seventh-place performance in the London leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series on Sunday.
The Blitzboks earned one of the four automatic qualifying berths for Tokyo after England‚ who were in fifth on the standings‚ also stumbled at their home tournament. England can now no longer catch the Blitzboks in next weekend’s Paris finale.
Technically the Blitzboks could still fail to claim the fourth place‚ but that would need them not to take the field in Paris. Once that is done‚ they will be guaranteed one log point‚ which is enough to secure fourth place. They currently have 131 log points with England on 109.
Fiji moved to the top of the World Series standings after thrashing Australia 43-7 in the London final. The islanders are now on 164 points‚ just two clear of the second-placed US, who could only manage third in London.
The Blitzboks started well in London‚ scoring 40 points or more in each of their three Pool matches against Japan (49-0)‚ Canada (45-14) and Argentina (40-21). But they could not replicate the same intensity in their quarterfinal against Australia.
Finishing in the top four was a highlight for Blitzbok coach Neil Powell‚ even though he was disappointed with the 29-22 Cup quarterfinal defeat against Australia. In their second match of the day‚ New Zealand won by 21-17 after the Blitzboks conceded a try after the final hooter.
“One of our main aims at the start of the season was to make sure we qualify in the top four in order to get that automatic qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games‚” said Powell.
“We ticked that box and we are grateful and pleased with that. It does ease the disappointment of our performances here on the second day a bit. Our match against Australia was probably our worst all season as we simply didn’t play near the standard we are capable of playing.”
The Australians‚ who later contested the Cup final against Fiji‚ scored tries in quick succession in the first and second halves‚ leaving SA to play catch-up rugby all along.
“Maybe we had it too easy on the first day‚” said Powell.
“The younger players need to learn that you cannot bank on good performances on day one and then not show up the next. We were just not good enough in that match and that was very disappointing.”
Powell was pleased with the effort against New Zealand, though: “At least we showed some effort in that match and I will never fault that. The result was unfortunate‚ but we showed some urgency in the match.”
The top five log positions:
1. Fiji 164
2. USA 162
3. NZ 143
4. South Africa 131
5. England 109