Sport

HARD-FOUGHT GAINS

Blitzboks can clinch overall SVNS title this weekend while Springbok Women fight for survival

Blitzboks can clinch overall SVNS title this weekend while Springbok Women fight for survival
Ricardo Duarttee of the Blitzboks during the Cup semi-final against Samoa on day 3 of the Cape Town, DHL Stadium. 11 December 2022. (Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The SVNS grand final takes place in Madrid this weekend. A new concept that means the Blitzboks can take the overall title despite finishing seventh this season.

Despite a calamitous season by their standards, the Blitzboks have a chance of clinching the overall 2023/24 SVNS title at the grand final in Madrid this weekend.

This in a season where they only finished in the top four once, changed head coaches after five legs and only had their captain Siviwe Soyizwapi available in one leg.

It’s been a rollercoaster season filled with more lows than highs, but they can turn it all around this weekend in Madrid thanks to the newly introduced system that sees the top eight teams across the season compete for the overall title in a winner-takes-all format.

June is a big month for the Blitzboks who will travel to Monaco later in the month to compete in the repechage tournament in a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris.

“To win here in Madrid and become the Grand Final champion, you need to win all of your matches — it’s as simple as that,” interim coach Philip Snyman said.

“In a month’s time, in order for us to get the ticket to the Paris Olympics, you need to win all your matches. So where better to get into that mindset than here?”

Blitzboks

Shilton van Wyk during a Blitzboks training session at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport. 16 February 2024. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

The Springbok Sevens, who ended in seventh on the overall standings, find themselves in a tough pool alongside second-placed Ireland, third-placed New Zealand and fifth-placed Fiji.

But Snyman’s focus for the weekend in Madrid is more about future planning.

“We are playing Ireland, New Zealand and Fiji, who all qualified for Paris already, so they will not have that on their minds,” said Snyman.

“For us, the Monaco tournament will be crucial, but in saying that, what happens here in Madrid will lay the foundation for Monaco.

“It is very important to get it right here this weekend. We are going to test some combinations and give some game time to returning players, but those tweaks will not take away our goal — to return to winning ways.”

All eight teams in the Grand Finale will complete their pool games on Friday and Saturday, with the top two sides from each pool progressing to the semi-finals on Sunday.

Blitzboks

Simamkele Namba of South Africa during the women’s match against Fiji on day 1 of the Hong Kong Sevens at Hong Kong Stadium. 5 April 2024. (Photo: David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images)

Women’s battle

While the top eight teams compete for the title, the bottom four will compete to remain on the circuit next season in a promotion/relegation play-off against four Challenger teams.

The Springbok Women’s Sevens, who finished 11th out of 12 teams will be among those competing for a spot on the circuit in Madrid this weekend.

Bok Sevens women are paired with core team Brazil alongside Challenger competitors Argentina and Belgium.

The competition format involves two pools of four teams each, with South Africa and Brazil taking on two teams from the Challenger Series in their pool.

The final placings from pool play will determine which teams will progress to the all-important play-off matches on Sunday, where the winners of the four quarterfinals will secure their places in the Sevens circuit in 2025.

Shona-Leah Weston,

Shona-Leah Weston of the Springbok Sevens Women during a training match against Spain Women at Aberdeen Sports Grounds in Ho Man Tin, Hong Kong. 2 April 2024. (Photo: David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images)

“We know what is needed — it’s straightforward, you need to win your quarter-final to stay on the circuit,” head coach Renfred Dazel said.

“That does create pressure, but we do have experienced campaigners with the ability to stay calm.

“We have prepared well; we know what we need to do and what is at stake. So, this is a straightforward assignment.”

Brazil finished 10th on the overall standings, one spot above the Springbok Women while South Africa beat Belgium twice in the finals of the Challenger Series last year and were subsequently awarded Sevens core status.

Argentina, on the other hand, is an unknown entity for Dazel.

“I can’t recall us playing against Argentina before, but their style is the same as the other South American teams,” he said. “They love to keep the ball alive, and they attack with their scrum half from set pieces.”

Both Springbok sides are in with a tough challenge this weekend in Madrid, although the Women have more on the line as failure to reach the quarterfinals will see them in the Sevens wilderness again. DM

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