Sport

SEVENS RUGBY

Blitzboks continue Dubai form by clinching victory in final of opening tournament

Blitzboks continue Dubai form by clinching victory in final of opening tournament
Players of South Africa lift the trophy after their team's victory during the HSBC Dubai Sevens at Sevens Stadium on 2 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

The Springboks Sevens men’s side went unbeaten all weekend before clinching the Dubai crown 12-7 over Argentina – their fifth consecutive win in the desert.

The Blitzboks secured their fifth consecutive Dubai Sevens title after sneaking past Argentina 12-7 in the final of the opening tournament of the season on Sunday evening. 

The victory was built on sharp, aggressive defence led by Justin Geduld, as well as brilliant scramble defence as a unit.

The South Africans were provided with front-foot momentum early on thanks to ill-discipline from Argentina – who conceded three consecutive penalties – but were clinical and near-flawless in execution. 

Justin Geduld of South Africa passes the ball during day 2 of the HSBC Dubai Sevens at Sevens Stadium on 2 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

The dancing feet of captain Selvyn Davids put Impi Visser into some space in the right-hand corner to open the scoring early in the first half.

It was Davids again with a perfectly weighted pass to Shilton van Wyk, who marauded through the guts of the Argentinian defence to dot down untouched.

The Boks took a 12-0 lead into halftime but that advantage quickly looked in danger of being hauled in after Ryan Oosthuizen – who had been superb all weekend – received a yellow card early in the second half for a high shot.

Argentinian flyer Matias Osadczuk made the numbers advantage count with a brilliant score 10 metres out from the left touchline, which was brilliantly converted by ​​Santiago Mare to take the score to 12-7.

South Africa thought they had pulled out of reach with a third try when returning Sevens superstar Rosko Specman went over the line, but he lost possession while trying to dot the ball down mid-air in the right-hand corner.

It wouldn’t matter too much as the score remained the same for the next three minutes before Dewald Human booted the ball into the crowd as the final whistle went.

Rosko Specman of South Africa scores a try during day 2 of the HSBC Dubai Sevens at Sevens Stadium on 2 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Perfect weekend

The Blitzboks went through the weekend unbeaten in Dubai. They topped their pool after convincing wins over Samoa and Canada on Saturday before scraping past New Zealand in their final group game.

Before the final victory on Sunday, the Springbok Sevens defeated Australia 24-7 in the quarter-finals before getting past Fiji 14-7. 

“We had a very good pre-season and the guys showed that they were ready to play six tough matches,” Philip Snyman, who stood in for head coach Sandile Ngcobo, said after the final win.

“The way they worked, based on defence, also showed their willingness to work off the ball and cover each other’s backs and that is a wonderful thing for coaches to see.”

The win in Dubai sees the Blitzboks tie Fiji for most consecutive cup titles in one location (five) and New Zealand for most titles in one location (11). It’s also South Africa’s first tournament win since last season’s Dubai Sevens.

According to skipper Davids, the conditions in Dubai are similar to Stellenbosch, which is a contributing factor to his side’s continued success in the desert.

“We train in Stellenbosch and believe me, it is as hot there,” Davids said 

“So, when we come here, coupled with the good support from the Dubai crowd, we feel at home.”

Ronald Brown of South Africa scores a try during day 2 of the HSBC Dubai Sevens at Sevens Stadium on 2 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Springbok Women make progress

Even though the Springbok Women’s Sevens only picked up one victory all weekend in Dubai – in their first tournament back on the Sevens circuit since 2014/15 – it’s evident progress has been made in the side over the last year.

The team came close to a major upset in their first match of the weekend. Up 14-5 against eventual tournament runners-up and last season’s champions, New Zealand, they ran out of steam and lost 14-19.

They then went on to lose 17-21 to Fiji before being outmuscled 5-17 by Great Britain on an opening day that promised much but fell slightly short.

It meant the South Africans were bottom of their pool despite picking up two bonus points.

The Bok Women’s Sevens team picked up their only win of the tournament in the ninth-place semi-final against Spain, running out 17-0 victors before falling 12-5 to Japan in the ninth-place final.

“I knew the second day would be tough for us, as the bodies were sore and we have one or two injuries after yesterday, and we then had to do it all over again,” head coach Renfred Dazel said about his charges.

 “We did that, so I am very proud. Finishing 10th when we were ranked 12th is a huge positive for me.”

Next weekend, both South African sides will welcome the other 22 core Sevens teams to Cape Town, when the men will look to continue their early form and the women will hope to turn close defeats into victories in front of fervent local supporters. DM

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