The Springbok Sevens team on Saturday made their ambition clear on Day One of the HSBC Wellington Sevens, played at the Westpac Stadium in the New Zealand capital.
The South Africans delivered a strong performance in pool B and won all three their matches, beating Japan (31-0), Australia (28-0) and Fiji (31-12), with the last result confirming their top of the pool status.
South Africa will now play France in the Cup quarterfinals on Sunday. The teams last met in at the inaugural Cape Town Sevens in 2016, where the home side won 21-12, but France won last time they played in Wellington, winning 22-5 two years ago.
Overall, South Africa has won 44 of the 50 clashes between the sides, with an average winning score of 24-9.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said he was happy with their defensive effort, as it showed the urgency in the team’s approach. He was nervous before the start of the tournament, he admitted.
“We had a tough pool, so I was nervous. We showed great energy in training and had a good week and the guys took the intensity from the training field into the matches. We laid the needed foundation against Japan, gained more momentum against Australia and then defended very well against Fiji,” Powell said.“The challenge is now to come back tomorrow and repeat those performances. We have slipped up in the past, so we need to try and avoid that on Sunday,” Powell said.
The team playing with great energy in their opening match against Japan, scoring five tries in the process. Werner Kok, playing in his 100th match for the Blitzboks, opened the scoring, with Chris Dry and Philip Snyman also dotting down.
Three conversions by Branco du Preez secured a 21-0 lead and also helped the player to move past Fabian Juries on the career points scoring list. Senatla scored a second before the break to give South Africa a 26-0 lead and a third in the second half to confirm their intentions.
It was also a special moment for Zain Davids, who took the field in the second half to make his Blitzboks debut, the 162nd player representing South Africa in the World Series.
Against Australia, the Blitzboks again defended with great determination and Australia could not cross their goal line, something that pleased veteran forward, Chris Dry, who also scored a try in the match.
“We do pride ourselves on our defence and keeping the work rate up is pretty important. We were very clinical at times, but we did concede too many penalties. Discipline is key for us and we need to keep improving on that,” Dry said after the match.
Kok started the scoring with a good try, converted by Du Preez to give the South Africans a 7-0 lead at the break. Second half tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi, Dylan Sage and Dry confirmed the win.
Three quick tries by the Blitzboks laid the foundation against Fiji.
Former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Werner Kok, was instrumental in the lead-up of the first try and scored it himself. A high tackle on the winger in the process resulted in a yellow card to Fiji and the Blitzboks used the opportunity to score two quick-fire tries with Fiji a man down, current World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Seabelo Senatla dotting down for the time in his career and Justin Geduld scoring the third.
The 17-0 lead was cut to 17-12 in the second half when Fiji scored either side of half time, but tries by Senatla and Siviwe Soyizwapi sealed the win.
- Seabelo Senatla has now scored 176 tries and is three short off the overall career tries record of Fabian Juries (179).
- Branco du Preez meanwhile moved past Juries on the all-time scoring list. The sweeper’s 934 career points puts him second on the all-time scoring list, with Juries (925) now in third place.
- Zain Davids made his Springbok Sevens debut when he took to the field against Japan.
The Cup quarters are: (SA time)
01h38 – England vs Scotland
02h00 – New Zealand vs Fiji
02h22 – Canada vs Argentina
02h44 – South Africa vs France