The South African sevens team is in damage limitation mode after a disastrous final day of the Hamilton Sevens tournament in New Zealand. The Blitzboks slipped to fourth in the overall standings after a seventh place finish on Sunday. They move to Australia for the Sydney Sevens which starts on Friday, desperate to fix what they can and plot their recovery.
Losses to France and Ireland saw the Blitzboks finish seventh in New Zealand, and slip to fourth place in the overall standings. Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo had one word to sum up his team’s tournament.
“Inconsistency, one good thing and two bad things and at this level the deeper you go into the tournament the less opportunities you have. So you have to capitalise on the opportunities that are presented. The fortunate thing is we created them and we never finished it off. Yes we can say a bad call here and there from the ref but we should be two, three tries up ahead. So those bad calls or marginal calls don’t affect us.”
The Blitzboks had set themselves up nicely in Hamilton in the early stages of the tournament. They even beat the eventual winners, Argentina in the pool stages. Slipping to fourth in the overall standings means the Blitzboks are still in an automatic qualification place for the 2024 Olympic Games. But coach Ngcobo is worried that the Blitzboks are not playing to their strengths.
“The big one was being counter rucked and we spoke about muscling up in the rucks because they can’t keep up when it comes to our pace. These teams are big and they can’t keep up and unfortunately that’s the lessons that a few of the senior players and mostly youngsters are going to need to grasp. If you want to play this game you have to hang on to your ball, ball possession is everything in this game. It is just something that we need to discuss and have a hard talk about in the review.”
Next up is the Sydney Sevens tournament in Australia, which starts on Friday. It’s a very short turn-around time to get the team ready to go again for coach Ngcobo and his staff.
“The big thing is to get the bodies recovering again, that is the massive thing. And us as coaches will go diagnose the whole tournament and have a sit down with the boys on Tuesday and say this is where we are and have a hard talk as well. So in reality yes there were good things and we just didn’t carry it over to day two and what can we do to have that type of consistency going deeper into the tournament in terms of intensity. You’ll get one hard day and then the rest will be more detail and just so we can start looking up and not give the ball away and understand who we are playing, what’s the score and what do we possess. We have got a lot of potential, they have got to start believing more that we can put these teams away.”
Sydney is the fifth stop on World Rugby’s Sevens series. And with the likes of Fiji down in eighth on the standings, defending champs, Australia in seventh place, and the Blitzboks holding down fourth place, this season is proving to be the most competitive in recent memory on the sevens circuit.