Argentina and Australia win in Cape Town as Blitzboks fall apart again
Argentina and Australia won the men’s and women’s HSBC Cape Town SVNS titles respectively, but there was no joy for South Africa.
It was a home tournament to forget for the Blitzboks as they slumped to sixth overall in Cape Town – the second leg of the 2023/2024 season – having won last week in Dubai.
The Blitzboks have not won their home tournament since 2015 and the wait will continue after winning only two of their five matches over the weekend in a hot and windy Mother City.
But for Argentina, runners-up in Dubai last week, it was a memorable weekend which they capped off with a stunning 45-12 win over Australia in the men’s final.
Earlier, Australia’s women, the pacesetters in this format, overcame a spirited French effort in the final, beating Les Bleus 29-26 in extra time in a competitive final. The Aussies won in Dubai in round one.
The Blitzboks endured a torrid day, conceding 59 points in two matches and scoring only seven. As far as lows for the South African Sevens programme go, there can’t have been a more chastening day in the history of the competition.
After losing 14-12 to Ireland to complete day one after wins over the USA (26-14) and Great Britain (19-5), there was a sense that the defeat was no bad thing. It meant missing out on facing Fiji in the last eight and instead setting up the Blitzboks for a quarterfinal clash against Australia.
But the Aussies never followed the script the large home crowd wanted and dominated their quarterfinal clash, winning 28-0 after running into a 14-0 lead at halftime.
The Blitzboks did not escape their own 22-metre area for almost the entire match. They couldn’t break through a stout Australian defence with what little ball they had and on defence, South Africa were passive and fragile.
It was the same situation in the play-off for fifth/sixth against New Zealand, who endured their own problems over the weekend.
The Blitzboks were hammered 31-7 by the men in black after another tepid display which left the home crowd stunned.
The Blitzboks’ issues centred on their inability to retain possession and also to starve the opposition of possession in those crunch knockout games.
“Possession was key, and we simply did not look well enough after ours,” said head coach Sandile Ngcobo. “We were attacked at the breakdown, and we need to muscle up in that area as we lost too many balls there.”
Despite the results in Cape Town, Ngcobo believes the overall assessment of his team over the first two tournaments of the HSBC SVNS is positive: “We showed we can put any team away over the last two weeks and that was something we tried to work towards in our pre-season. Yes, today was not a great day, but we will have a good look at why and then make the necessary adaptations.”
On the Blitzboks’ defeats to Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, Ngcobo pointed to the competitive nature of the new format of HSBC SVNS.
“It is very competitive and every match counts,” he said.
“We saw again this weekend how teams who were off the pace last week came good here and vice versa. Canada, who finished 12th, showed they can beat anyone, for example. This is going to be a very tough series to win.”
The team will take a short break and return to camp early in January to start preparations for the next event in Perth.
“We will have a look at who is returning from injury and what the individual performances in Dubai and Cape Town contributed or not to the way we played,” Ngcobo said.
“We did not suffer any serious injuries over the last two weekends and that bodes well to start with a strong squad next year.”
SA Women struggle
Women’s head coach Renfred Dazel said that despite their HSBC SVNS Cape Town performances over the weekend, he is still confident that the team will achieve their season goal of finishing in the top eight of the series.
Dazel spoke after a disappointing home event where they lost all five games and finished 12th in the second tournament of the new series.
They will travel to the third tournament in Perth at the end of January in 11th place. The top eight sides will automatically qualify for next season’s series.
“Last weekend we finished 10th in Dubai and got three bonus points by finishing within seven points of our opponents, but this weekend, we hardly got out of the blocks,” said Dazel.
“That was the disappointing part, but if we look back over the two tournaments, there [was] enough to build on and that makes me confident that we can be competitive next month in Perth.
“We lost some key decision makers in our squad before Dubai and two more here in Cape Town, and most of them will be back for the next tournament. The reality is that we needed to replace them with less experienced players and if you add the pressures that come with being at home, we did not adapt as well as we could [have].” DM