England erased an early deficit to defeat the Blitzboks 19-7 in the Cup final of the Vancouver Sevens. SARUgbyMag MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Blitzboks have been in irresistible form throughout the season, except when they play against England, a team responsible for all three defeats South Africa have suffered in the series.
England are also the only other team, beside the Blitzboks, to win a tournament (Cape Town and Vancouver events) so far in the series.
South Africa scored early through Siviwe Soyizwapi, but came under pressure for the rest of the first half in which they were forced to make 13 tackles and trailed England 40-15 in passes completed.
While their robust defence has to be commended, the dam wall eventually broke after the half-time hooter when Richard de Carpentier ran over Rosco Speckman to score. Tom Mitchell added the sideline conversion to level matters at the break.
During half-time, England’s coach could be heard urging his charges to ‘Attack, attack, attack.’ And they obliged, making the perfect start to the second half when Dan Bibby beat the Blitzboks’ rush defence with a kick in behind to score under the posts.
That try changed the complexion of the contest, as the Blitzboks nervously started to make a number of unforced errors. And two minutes after Bibby’s effort, speedster Dan Norton was away for England’s third after South Africa failed to secure the ball at a ruck.
Nevertheless, there was still plenty of time for a comeback and when Speckman went flying down the left-hand side of the field it looked as if the Blitzboks would score. But with no English defenders in close proximity, Speckman pulled up with a hamstring injury and dropped to the ground in agony.
Play went on, albeit with six men, but the Blitzboks seemed distracted by it all and couldn’t find a way past England again.
Day 2 Report
Werner Kok made a try-saving tackle in the in-goal area in stoppage-time as the Blitzboks ground out a 14-10 win over the USA in the semi-finals of the Vancouver Sevens.
In an attacking sense, this was far from South Africa’s best performance. They uncharacteristically gave the ball away too easily and conceded six penalties in the match. But when the occasion demanded it, the Blitzboks came up with one of the finest defensive efforts to aid their cause.
Martin Iosefo put the USA in the lead when after they halted a Blitzboks attack, effected turnover possession and scored at the other end. But the Blitzboks hit back through captain Philip Snyman, who ghosted through an opening after a couple of phases inside the 22. Cecil Afrika succeeded with the conversion for a 10-7 advantage at half-time.
Dan Norton flew down the left wing early in the second half, drawing the attention of three South African defenders, which created an overlap on the right flank. The USA recycled the ball quickly and Andrew Duratula dotted down to put his side back in the ascendency, although Madison Hughes failed to land the conversion again.
As has become customary, it took a moment of individual brilliance from Speckman to get South Africa back on track. The speedster put his head down and used sheer pace cut open the USA defence for an important try behind the posts, making it easy for Afrika to land the conversion.
With a four-point difference, the USA had an opportunity to heist a win at the death as they went side to side on attack right on the tryline, but there was no way through the resilient Blitzboks wall. With the clock moving into stoppage-time, Duratula made a play for the line, but Kok somehow managed to put himself between the ball-carrier and the grass to prevent what would have been a match-winning try
The Blitzboks will face England in the Cup final.
Day 1 Report
The Springbok Sevens team on Saturday topped pool A of the HSBC Vancouver Sevens and will face hosts Canada in the Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.
Wins over Chile and Kenya earned the passage into the last eight and a draw against England confirmed the top spot due to a better points’ difference to the South Africans.
This is the sixth consecutive Cup quarterfinal reached by the Blitzboks since the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series kicked off the 2016/17 season in Dubai.
The team had to dig deep to remain unbeaten on their North American trip though and had to defend for all their worth in their final pool match against England. The match finished in a 12-all draw.
The leading tackler in the World Series, Chris Dry, said their performances on Day One, especially against England, were not their best. “We made it very difficult for ourselves by not controlling the ball and England punished us for that. We scrambled very well at the end and credit to the guys for that. England is a difficult side to defend against, as they can score from anywhere. Us giving so much ball away helped them in their attack,” Dry said.
“We are pleased to finish top of the pool as that was the first goal for the day. That creates some momentum going into day two. No doubt, tomorrow will be another tough one. Canada will be pumped up, playing in front of this great crowd in this great stadium.”
The team knows what needs to be done, he believes.
“The key for us will be discipline and controlling the ball against them. If we control the ball, we will score points. Poor discipline also hampered us today and need to sort that out come tomorrow,” Dry said.
South Africa were the most penalised team on Day One, conceding 14 penalties and only awarded six.
Dan Norton opened the scoring for England early in the first half, before Rosko Specman ran 50 meters to score in the corner. Cecil Afrika converted for a 7-5 lead at the break. Dylan Sage scored early in the second half to extend the Blitzboks lead to 12-5.
Sage’s effort was countered by a second Norton try late in the second half, which was also converted. This left both teams in search of the win, but good defence confirmed the result.
Earlier in the day, Specman, who also made the most tackles for the team (12) and Ruhan Nel scored first half tries against Kenya, giving the Blitzboks a 10-lead at the break. Kenya did cut the deficit with a try of their own, but a try by Dry confirmed the 15-5 win.
The Blitzboks beat Chile 33-0 in their opening game after leading 14-0 at half-time. They ran in five tries, with Philip Snyman, Sage (2), Siviwe Soyizwapi and Dry all adding to their career tally. Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez added two conversions apiece.
Du Preez has kicked 83 conversions already his season, but admits that it was hard work out there.
“Scoring was not easy today, we had to work hard for all our points,” said Du Preez. “England is a tough opponent, but we know our system works for us and if we stick to it, we will be successful.”
- South Africa had to make a late change to their team due to a foot injury sustained by Stephan Dippenaar and he was replaced by Sandile Ngcobo, the official reserve player.
- Head to Head: South Africa played Canada 41 times, winning 36 and losing five. The average score is 27-9 and they last met in Las Vegas last weekend, where South Africa won 26-7.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, knows that the Blitzboks will have to endure another huge physical test when the HSBC Vancouver Sevens kicks off at BC Place on Saturday, but expects the mental challenge to his side to be even greater.
With the Blitzboks victorious in 28 of their 30 matches played in the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series so far, the target on their backs are getting bigger and England, who handed South Africa their only two defeats, will loom large in Pool A in Canada.
The Vancouver event is also the second in as many weeks, with bumps and bruises a natural consequence after some bruising matches in Las Vegas.
And the Blitzboks will have to make do without their two leading points’ scorers this season, with Seabelo Senatla (160 points) and Justin Geduld (119 points) not in Vancouver.
To Powell though, the biggest threat is his side’s mental focus.
“Unfortunately there is a lot of talk that we have the series sewn up, which cannot be further from the truth,” said Powell.
“One bad tournament, where you don’t make the semi-finals, could derail our momentum significantly. The last thing I want to players to think of is a fifth tournament win or our lead in the series and then getting ahead of themselves. We dare not to look past Chile in that first pool game.”
Chile has interestingly won the only encounter played between the two sides, by 28-21 in a pool match at Punta del Este in Uruguay in 2000.
“I don’t have to spell out how dangerous Kenya and England can be, so if we are not on top of our game, we could not even make the quarters,” Powell warned.
The South Africans have won 40 of their 46 matches against Kenya (average score 26-9) and 36 of 68 against England (average score 16-15).
“We did a solid review of our performance in Las Vegas and realised how many things we can still do better,” said Powell.
“We did some good things, but not enough to excuse us from working hard again this week to fine tune our game. I was pleased with the way we executed our ruck attack and how we kept the ball when we had possession.”
At the halfway mark of the ten-tournament series, the Blitzboks (107) hold a 24-point lead over Fiji (83), with England (81) close behind the Olympic gold medal winners.
Selected Blitzboks 2016/17 stats:
Leading points’ scorers:
- Seabelo Senatla 160
- Justin Geduld 119
- Branco du Preez 102
- Werner Kok 75
- Cecil Afrika 60
- Seabelo Senatla 32
- Werner Kok 15
- Justin Geduld 13
- Rosko Specman 11
- Chris Dry 11
- Branco du Preez 41
- Justin Geduld 27
- Cecil Afrika 10
- Chris Dry 81
- Philip Snyman 76
- Werner Kok 72
Overall team tries:
- South Africa 129
- Fiji 126
- England 97
Here is the Pools for the Vancouver Sevens 2017
|POOL A||POOL B||POOL C||POOL D|
|South Africa||Fiji||USA||New Zealand|
|12||Loser QF1||v||Loser QF2||22:46|
|12||Loser QF3||v||Loser QF4||23:08|
|12||Winner QF1||v||Winner QF2||23:30|
|12||Winner QF3||v||Winner QF4||23:52|
|13||Loser QF1||v||Loser QF2||00:24|
|13||Loser QF3||v||Loser QF4||00:46|
|13||Winner QF1||v||Winner QF2||01:08|
|13||Winner SF1||v||Winner SF2||02:12|
|13||Winner Match 37||v||Winner Match 38||03:07|
|13||Loser Match 38||v||Loser Match 39||03:52|
|13||Loser Match 38||v||Loser Match 39||03:52|
|13||Winner SF1||v||Winner SF2||04:19|