Blitzbokke retain No 1 spot

2015-02-07 16:43
Blitzbokke (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Springbok Sevens remain top of the Sevens World Series after finishing third at the Wellington Sevens in New Zealand, the fourth in the international series of eight tournaments.

South Africa heads the log with 76 points halfway through the World Series, six points clear of New Zealand, who moved into second place. The top four sides on the log will gain automatic qualification into the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Springbok Sevens captain Kyle Brown admitted that his team were mentally slow to adapt to the pressures of the New Zealand tournament. He was pleased though that the side responded well under pressure on the second day of play.

“We had to maximise the points from this tournament after our slow start. I am pleased in the way we finished against Scotland, that was 14 minutes of good sevens rugby we played. There is still a lot to work on though if we want to improve in the USA,” Brown said.

“We came back well today. We were in a dark hole after our poor showing on day one and the guys responded very well today. We know we are a capable team; the actual battle is the one in our heads. It is just a matter of getting our minds right and play the type of rugby that we know we can.”

Stalwart Frankie Horne, who extended his world record to 63 consecutive HSBC tournaments, also looked at the positive side of things.

“Make no mistake, we were shocked on day one, but we gradually improved and played much better today. Our concentration lapsed in the final minutes against New Zealand and we paid the price. We are still pretty pleased with third place overall. It was pleasing to see the way the younger players responded when given a chance against Scotland. We now have some nice momentum going into Las Vegas.”

The South African Blitzbokke opened Day Two in convincing fashion by beating Kenya 19-5 in the Cup quarterfinal. They came up short against New Zealand in the semi-final though, losing 17-7 before rebounding strongly against Scotland, beating them 40-7 in the third place final.

Against Scotland, the log-leaders finally showed the form that brought them success in Dubai and South Africa.

They did concede a try soon after the start of the match, but raced away from Scotland in the remainder of the match. Leading 28-7 at the break, they scored two more times in the second half to win going away. Rayno Benjamin, Kyle Brown, Seabelo Senatla (2) and Warrick Gelant (2) scored tries, with Branco du Preez converting five of those.

In the earlier semi-final against New Zealand, some poor kicking cost the South Africans.  New Zealand struck first with a well-worked try, before Kwagga Smith scored a brilliant team try. Having just lost Seabelo Senatla to a yellow card, the Blitzbokke turned over possession near their own line. Some great interplay and interpassing saw Smith dotting down at the other end of the field.

The hosts showed more composure in the second half and defended a 12-7 lead well. A late try by New Zealand after a wayward hack by a South African player sealed the 17-7 win.

The Springbok Sevens started the day in Wellington's Westpac Stadium with a solid 19-5 win over fellow African team, Kenya.

Michael Wanjala scored first for Kenya after some sloppy defence by South Africa, but they scored three tries after that to secure the result.

A try by Frankie Horne pulled back the deficit just before the break and Branco du Preez's conversion took the Blitzbokke into a 7-5 lead at the break.

Second half scores by Cecil Afrika and Justin Geduld secured South Africa their fourth consecutive semi-final berth.

•Defending champions New Zealand have won their first title of the season, defeating England 27-21 in the Wellington final.

The draw for the next tournament, in Las Vegas, USA next weekend was also made. In Pool B, South Africa is joined by hosts USA, Portugal and Japan. New Zealand head Pool A and face Fiji, Wales and Samoa. England will meet Kenya, Argentina and Canada in Pool C and Brazil will play Scotland, Australia and France in Pool D.

The HSBC Sevens World Series Standings after four tournaments are:
1. South Africa 76
2. New Zealand 69
3. Fiji 64
4. Australia 58
5. England 56
6. Argentina 47
7. Scotland 42
8. USA 36
9. Samoa 31
10. Wales 30


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