Blitzboks aim for dream Vancouver outing after nightmarish showing at LA Sevens

Blitzboks aim for dream Vancouver outing after nightmarish showing at LA Sevens
Blitzbok head coach Sandile Ngcobo at a training session in Vancouver on 1 March 2023. (Photo: David Van Der Sandt / Gallo Images)

South Africa’s men’s sevens rugby side are out to make amends after an unsatisfactory showing during the last leg of the World Sevens Series.

Springbok Sevens mentor Sandile Ngcobo was candid in dissecting his side’s disappointing and below-par performance a week ago on the Los Angeles leg of the World Sevens Series.

“It seemed that complacency crept in and that the guys were just going through the motions and expecting things to happen, instead of going there and making it happen,” Ngcobo reflected.

The South Africans were far from emulating their efficient and clinical performances over the past two decades or so, playing well below their capabilities in California.

They won only one pool game in LA, before being brushed aside by Fiji in the quarterfinals, as well as Samoa in the fifth-place semifinal.   


The Blitzboks’ Jaiden Baron regathers the ball during their Sydney Sevens quarterfinal against Ireland at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia, on 28 January 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Steven Markham)

“A performance like this is disrespectful to our badge and to our country. We will have to have an extremely hard look at ourselves,” said Ngcobo, adding that he would also do some introspection before this weekend’s Vancouver Sevens.

“I will have to ask myself why and how we delivered such a poor performance and how we can fix that. Yes, we did play in the final in the previous tournament in Sydney, but that counted for nothing [in Los Angeles]. We had to start at zero again, but we never did.”

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Hopefully, by now the Blitzboks players and Ngcobo have their answers ahead of pool clashes against France, Japan and Argentina, who are second on the overall leaderboard.

The team heads on its quest for redemption in Canada with two new faces in tow. Jaiden Baron and Masande Mtshali have both been ruled out with concussion. Travis Ismaiel, who made his Blitzbok debut in Los Angeles last weekend, is nursing a hamstring injury and is also out.

Fresh legs

Ngcobo and his technical team have roped in uncapped duo Noegh Hayward and Gurshwin Wehr as replacements. They are primed for their senior debuts, having only played for the South African Sevens A squad so far.

“Yes, Noegh and Gurshwin brought new energy despite the jet lag,” said Ngcobo’s assistant, Philip Snyman, of the new arrivals ahead of a big weekend.


Assistant coach Philip Snyman during the Blitzboks’ training session at BC Place in Vancouver on 1 March 2023. (Photo: David Van Der Sandt / Gallo Images)

“New players always want to show what they are capable of and they both arrived full of smiles and enthusiasm. Seeing how much it meant to them to be here, made the remainder of the squad realise how privileged they are and that they have a responsibility to be at their very best the next time they play.”

Read in Daily Maverick:Missed tackles and lost opportunities — Blitzboks’ New Zealand hoodoo persists

Meanwhile, veteran Blitzbok Impi Visser promised a much-improved performance from the team: “That was a poor team performance and individuals also contributed to the downward spiral we were in. We will be better. That LA performance resembled and represented little of who we are and what we represent. We will bounce back this weekend.”

With Olympic qualification on the line, it is crucial that the Blitzboks put on a strong showing in Vancouver. Ngcobo’s men find themselves in third spot on the World Series standings, with a five-point lead over fifth-placed Samoa.  

With the top four sides automatically qualifying for the Olympic Games in France in 2024, a sustained set of inconsistent performances may hurt the South Africans in the long term.

The players start their quest to make amends against France on Friday night. Kick-off is at 10.14pm. Early on Saturday morning they face Japan (4.38am) before capping their campaign against Argentina at 11.26pm on the same day. All games will be live on SuperSport. DM

Blitzbok squad:

Ryan Oosthuizen – 38 tournaments, 182 matches

Impi Visser – 27 tournaments, 140 matches

Zain Davids – 38 tournaments, 192 matches

James Murphy – 14 tournaments, 63 matches

Christie Grobbelaar – 13 tournaments, 65 matches

Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain) – 46 tournaments, 238 matches

Noegh Hayward – Uncapped

Ricardo Duarttee – Five tournaments, 28 matches

Ronald Brown – 10 tournaments, 52 matches

Gurshwin Wehr – Uncapped

Shilton van Wyk – 10 tournaments, 56 matches

Mfundo Ndhlovu – 12 tournaments, 54 matches


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