City of Lights improves Blitzboks spirits
SA sevens team has good memories of Paris tournament
If ever there was a tournament to lift the Blitzboks’ spirits after last week’s seventh place finish in London‚ it is this weekend’s World Series finale in Paris.
The City of Lights is where the Blitzboks claimed a stunning second consecutive World Series crown 12 months ago by winning at the Stade Jean-Bouin. Fiji’s meltdown helped matters.
The Blitzboks have little tangible left to play for this season after securing fourth place in the standings and with it‚ the final automatic qualifying berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But under coach Neil Powell the Blitzboks have always been performance-driven and not results-focused. Which is why they will be setting the same high standards — which they admit they have not always met in 2019 — in Paris.
Fiji or the US will win the overall title — only two points separate them — but the Blitzboks want to win their third tournament of an inconsistent campaign.
Last weekend in London the Blitzboks looked imperious in the pool stage‚ winning all three matches easily. But in the quarterfinals they were outmuscled by Australia‚ going down 29-22 before losing 21-17 after the hooter against NZ in a scrap for minor places.
Three new faces joined the squad on Tuesday as Cecil Afrika‚ Dewald Human and Mfundo Ndhlovu replaced the injured Stedman Gans‚ Kurt-Lee Arendse and Selvyn Davids.
“We all had a good look at ourselves and what we did on the weekend [in London]‚” said star forward Werner Kok. “The stats were not that bad‚ to be honest‚ but we did let ourselves down at crucial times. Our decision-making was not that great and we did not play directly enough at times.”
Kok‚ in his 47th tournament in the series‚ said the review did provide some good elements of play as well‚ and it is those that will be continued in Paris.
“We did take in a lot by watching our games and do some self-analysis. We did the same in Vancouver and Singapore‚ in fact‚ and had good results after that. We will be ready this weekend‚ especially as the three new guys will also be bringing it on.”
The team had the third best defensive record in London‚ third best tackle completion rate and with Fiji‚ have 22 wins in their last 30 outings‚ the best winning percentage in the series.