The Springbok Sevens team on Saturday lost to England in their final pool A match of the HSBC Sydney Sevens, but remains on track for a third HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament title. South Africa will face USA in the Allianz Stadium on Sunday in one of the four Cup quarterfinals to be played on Day Two of the fourth tournament of the series.
The team did secure wins over Japan and Kenya and were edged by England in the final pool match, but never got going in hot, humid conditions, as alluded to by Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, after the day’s play.
“Yes, we never managed to pick up any momentum as the day progressed,” he said. “Last week we managed to build up steam, but today we just could not do the same. In a way, this was a good thing to happen, because our character will now be tested. It will be interesting to see how we shape up tomorrow against America.”
Powell was disappointed about the lack of composure against England, but was not despondent about Day Two.
“The great thing is that we can start all over again tomorrow and that we have another chance to give it our best shot. We need to step up mentally and physically, but we have another opportunity to make it count.”
The coach said the first aim, to get into the Cup quarterfinals, was achieved and the quest for a first Sydney title is still on. “We will have some introspection tonight, close the door on Day One and then go out and do our best tomorrow,” he said.In their final pool match, the Blitzboks lost 21-15 to England, with both teams scoring three tries, but South Africa failing to convert the efforts of Chris Dry, Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla. Leading 10-7 at the break, the Springbok Sevens took a 15-7 lead with three minutes left to play, but allowed England to score twice to secure top of the pool status.
Sentala’s try was his sixth of the day, extending his all-time Springbok Sevens try-scoring record to 186 tries.
Earlier in the day the Blitzboks had to come from behind to beat Kenya 14-7, but had less issues with Japan, beating them 32-0.
Senatla scored three against Japan, with Dylan Sage, Kwagga Smith and getting the other five pointers. Against Kenya, Senatla scored a brace, with the second coming from some good lead-up work by Rosko Specman.
There were some bad news for the team unfortunately, with Werner Kok being ruled out of the tournament due to a calf injury sustained against Japan.
Kok has been replaced by Stephan Dippenaar, who just joined the team yesterday. Dippenaar himself was a late replacement for Sandile Ngcobo, who had to return to South Africa for a family bereavement.
“It was bad for us as Werner is one of our starting players and is playing very well at the moment. The next guy must now step in and shows what he can do, that is what the system is all about,” Powell said.
“It is always player welfare first and Werner was uncomfortable, so the best call was to pull him out.”
- Head to Head South Africa vs USA: Played 42, South Africa won 37, Average score 26-8.
Last met: Cape Town Sevens 2016, South Africa won 28-10.
- Seabelo Senatla has extended his all-time try-scoring record for the Springbok Sevens team to 186. He is also the leading try-scorer in the 2016/17 series with 30 tries.
The Cup quarterfinals are: (SA times)
02h58: England vs Argentina
03h20: New Zealand vs Fiji
03h42: United Stated vs South Africa
04h04: Wales vs Australia