Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the past weekend’s Cape Town Sevens:
1. New Zealand back from the dead
The All Blacks Sevens went into Saturday’s headline match against the Blitzboks knowing they needed to win in order to qualify for the Cup quarter-finals.
The Kiwis rather unexpectedly lost to Samoa earlier in the day and were under pressure.
And when the hosts led 21-14 with less than 30 seconds remaining, it looked for all money that South Africa and Samoa would advance from Pool A.
But poor defence and handling from the Blitzboks opened the back door for New Zealand to score two tries in mere seconds and sneak into the Cup quarter-finals.
2. Blitzboks a work in progress
There’s no doubt that the Blitzboks remain a work in progress and it would be reasonable to assume that they’ll find it tough to defend their series title in 2018/19.
They have after all lost a few stalwarts to Super Rugby and it’s never easy for newcomers to make the step up.
This season’s first two tournaments - in Dubai and Cape Town - have showed how tough it will be for South Africa to win three World Rugby Sevens Series titles on the trot.
But there is hope and were enough positives for coach Neil Powell to work with.
However, one element of the team that they will need to work on is their defence.
Weak defence played a part in the sixth-place finish in Dubai and there were more cracks on display in Cape Town.
I felt the Blitzboks matched Fiji in all departments in their narrow Cup semi-final defeat but slipped some regulation first-time tackles that proved costly.
The hosts will also wonder how they managed to let Fiji in at the death despite having a numerical advantage of seven against six.
3. Revenge for Blitzboks
Saturday evening’s defeat to New Zealand would have been a crushing blow for South Africa.
They missed a golden opportunity to knock New Zealand out of the competition and it was no surprise that the teams met again on Sunday.
It was not in the Cup Final as they would have hoped - the Blitzboks lost 17-12 to Fiji in the semi-finals, while the All Blacks Sevens were thumped 31-12 by a physical USA outfit - but it was nevertheless an important Bronze Final with vital points up for grabs.
The Springbok Sevens produced an improved defensive effort and gained their revenge with a 10-5 victory over the Kiwis.
4. Top spot consolation for USA
The United States were mightily impressive in their 31-12 annihilation of New Zealand in the Cup semi-finals.
It was revenge for the 21-5 defeat they suffered against the Kiwis in last weekend’s Dubai Cup Final.
The physicality of the Americans was impressive, with the burly Danny Barrett a standout.
But the USA fell flat in the final against Fiji in a 29-15 defeat.
It may have been their second final defeat in a row but they can take some consolation that they now top the overall series standings after the first two rounds.
There’s no doubt that the Americans are improving and will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2018/19 season.
5. Blitzboks will miss Specman
Speedster Rosko Specman’s presence will no doubt be missed by the Blitzboks for the remainder of the season.
He is set to join the Bulls in Super Rugby and has put his sevens career in hold for the time being.
Specman was a key cog for the Blitzboks in Cape Town and it was no
surprise that he was included in the Dream Team for the event - the only South African to crack the nod.