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RUGBY SEVENS

Cape Town curse continues for Blitzboks while Pacific islanders shine

Cape Town curse continues for Blitzboks while Pacific islanders shine
Ricardo Duarttee is tackled by Paul Eti Slater and Vaovasa Afa Su’a (co-captain) of Samoa during the Cup semifinal on Sunday, 11 December at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens at DHL Stadium. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

After two days of excellent, free-flowing rugby, the Blitzboks had their worst match of the weekend in the semifinal against eventual champions Samoa, going down 10-7 in extra time.

With the match tied 7-7 at full time, the Blitzboks had an opportunity to go one step closer to breaking their seven-year Cape Town Sevens hoodoo by scoring any points against Samoa.

Instead, after being held up aloft by James Murphy, Darren Adonis spilled the kickoff which Shilton van Wyk, who was in front of play at the time, instinctively grabbed at. He was subsequently adjudged offside.

The mistake allowed Samoan Faafoi Falaniko to slot a straightforward, albeit pressured, penalty drop-goal to help the Samoans advance to the final where they beat New Zealand 12-7.

The mistakes by Adonis and Van Wyk were only two of a slew of errors made by the Bok Sevens side throughout the match on a weekend where they were nearly faultless.

“We started off well in the game against Samoa. We had all the opportunities in the world, but we couldn’t convert that into points,” said Blitzboks assistant coach Philip Snyman.

The Cape Town Sevens brings an end to the Blitzbok journey of Muller du Plessis and JC Pretorius as they take their places at the Sharks and Lions respectively in the 15s format.

blitzboks crowd

Fans cheer the Blitzboks during the Cup semifinal against Samoa on Sunday, 11 December at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens at DHL Stadium. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

“It’s heartbreaking losing in front of Cape Town. It’s unfortunate we played our worst game in the semifinal,” said Pretorius. “We didn’t capitalise on our opportunities. When you get to the knockout stages, you need to use your opportunities. We weren’t clinical enough.

“This loss will really hurt, but that’s Sevens — you only have five minutes to be sad. Especially [for] me as this will be my last Sevens tournament.”

In their final match of the weekend, the Blitzboks went down 22-14 in the rain to a spirited USA side in the third-place playoff.

The result further dampened the spirits of the Cape Town crowd who swiftly made their way to the nearest exits, leaving the cup final matches a wet and hollow affair.

The Springboks Sevens’ consistency in the past two weekends means they are still at the top of the World Series standings after three tournaments, sharing first position with Samoa, who won the title in a tense final as the heavens opened over the Mother City.

The top four teams at the end of the season will gain automatic qualification to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

“We are happy with where we are, as this is where we want to be,” said head coach Sandile Ngcobo.

“We decided at the beginning of the season that we want to finish in the top four and get that Olympic qualification in the bag, so for us to be in this position is a good reward for the work done so far by this group.

“Obviously, a lot of work still needs to be done, as we are at around 70% of our full potential, so to be in this position already means there are good things done.”

Pacific dominance

New Zealand secured the women’s title 31-14 against Australia in front of the sparse crowd.

Black Ferns captain Tyla Nathan-Wong was phenomenal, scoring two tries along with three conversions to receive the player of the final award.

Australia’s defeat signals the end of a winning streak dating back to the pool stages of the Commonwealth Games in July when they were defeated by Fiji.

The streak included winning the Commonwealth Games, the Sevens World Cup in Cape Town, as well as clinching the Sevens World Series.

Slick final

In the men’s final, the sporadic rain turned into a torrential downpour, but the slick hands of the Pacific islanders, New Zealand and Samoa, ensured the match was a thrill to watch.

Samoa opened the scoring in the first half through semifinal hero Falanik but he was unable to convert the difficult two-point bonus.

New Zealand struck back early in the second half with a converted try by Brady Rush.

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The DHL Stadium drainage system created pools of water in certain sections of the ground, which made running close to the touchline near impossible despite the best efforts of both sides.

With a minute left on the clock and trailing 7-5, Samoan speedster Vaa Apelu Maliko broke through after a terrific team effort from their own half and dived over the tryline in a frog splash to take the score to 12-5.

The All Black Sevens attempted a last-gasp attack, but were thwarted by the energised Samoan defence.

The slippery ball had the last word as a knock-on ended a thrilling match in something of an anticlimax to allow Samoa to clinch their first World Series title in South Africa.

Early cruise

blitzbok murphy

Blitzbok James Murphy is tackled during the Cup semifinal on Sunday, 11 December at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens at DHL Stadium. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

The Blitzboks were largely untroubled throughout their journey to the cup semifinal, cruising past strong opposition, Canada (17-7), Fiji (17-7) and France (26-7) in their pool stage matches.

They then edged Great Britain 21-14 in their quarterfinal clash on Saturday evening before it all fell apart on Sunday.

“We’re very happy with the first four matches. There’s lots of young players who came through and showed what they can do,” said Snyman.

“We’re sitting with five or six injuries at number nine and 10. The young players who came through — Ricardo Duarttee, Muller du Plessis and Darren Adonis — showed what they can do. It was a good experience for these young players.

“As we continue with the season, with the experienced players returning, we need the internal competition energy back to see who is going to make the team.”

Cape Town was the final World Series leg of the year. The next leg takes place in Hamilton, New Zealand, on 21 and 22 January 2023. DM

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings

47 points: South Africa and Samoa
44: New Zealand and USA
40: Fiji
39: Australia
38: France
37: Argentina
34: Ireland
20: Great Britain and Uruguay

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Elizabeth Pearson says:

    It really was a disappointing display by the Blitzboks – even more so after spending R500 a ticket for the upper tier of the stadium. A stadium that was never really full. I will not be attending next year, not at these prices.

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