Blitzboks give SA rugby fans reasons to be cheerful
Sevens hit the jackpot after eight years
The Blitzboks have given long-suffering SA rugby fans a reason to cheer. It’s been eight years since SA last won the World Rugby Sevens Series title. Indeed, it’s been eight years since any of SA’s national teams have won a trophy of substance. Thanks to the Blitzboks, who clinched the Sevens Series title on the back of their powerful performances at the Paris Sevens tournament this past weekend, the long and agonising wait is finally over.
The Blitzboks deserve applause for winning the Paris tournament. After suffering a shock 19-12 defeat to Scotland, SA went on to beat Japan 35-5 and Canada 31-7 in the remaining pool matches. A lift in physicality and intensity led to comfortable wins against Samoa (12-0) and New Zealand (26-5) in the playoffs. The Blitzboks were always in control of the decider against Scotland and eventually emerged 15-5 winners.
SA have clinched the 2016/2017 Seven Series title with a tournament to spare (they will play the final leg of the series in London this coming weekend). The Blitzboks have already won five tournaments and have appeared in eight of the nine finals this season. While they’ve scored some outstanding tries, their defence has set them apart from the other teams on the circuit. Fierce tackling and contesting at the breakdown has often led to turnovers. What’s more, the Blitzboks have been clinical in converting those turnovers into points.
Coach Neil Powell and his charges should take a bow. They deserve further praise for the manner in which they have dealt with the loss of key personnel over the course of the season. Earlier this year, star players Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith left the Blitzboks in order to serve their respective teams in the Super Rugby tournament. Stalwarts like Kyle Brown and Justin Geduld broke down with serious injuries.
The fact that the Blitzboks have continued to set the standard in terms of performances and results on the Sevens Series circuit is a testament to the quality of the coaching as well as the depth in the squad. Captain Philip Snyman, Werner Kok and Chris Dry have been influential at the back end of the season, while Rosko Speckman has galvanised his team at key stages of big games.