The SA Rugby Sevens Academy on Sunday won the Howard Hinton Sevens in Tours, France by defeating a New Zealand Select 22-7 in the final to round of a great week for SA Rugby’s sevens programme. Last Sunday, the Springbok Sevens team were crowned HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions and today the feeder system proved efficient as well, with the Academy side winning in Tours.
SA Rugby Sevens Academy manager, Marius Schoeman, was pretty pleased with the performance and determination of his squad.
“We played against a very good team from New Zealand in the final and won well, so it was pretty pleasing, even more so because we did it with such a young squad. It was their first tournament of the year, so they had to learn quickly,” Schoeman said.
The South Africans suffered a number of injuries at the tournament and entered the final with only nine fit players and without regular playmakers Dewald Human and Sandile Ngcobo, who was ruled out for action on the last day.
Human, Ngcobo and Marco Labuschagne joined the team in France after the last tournament in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in London, where they represented the Blitzboks, the overall series winners of the 2016/17 series.
“With the senior guys out, we had to rely on the young guys and they did not disappoint. They made the step-up when it mattered. Also pleasing was the fact that the players already in our youth system, like JC Pretorius, Heino Bezuidenhout and Mfundo Ndhlovu, excelled again. They were part of the squad that won gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa in 2015 and it is a complement to our structures to see their progress.”
Schoeman believes that a number of the players will be able to contest for places in the Blitzboks squad in future.
“That is our mandate and I am pleased that we are doing exactly that,” he said.
In the final, Mosolwa Mafuma was first on the score board after a strong dash down the line. The New Zealand side were one man down due to an early yellow card and the South Africans worked the numbers, with Mafuma too fast and strong for the cover defence. A good break by Heino Bezuidenhout saw Mfundlo Ndlovu race 70 meters to score, but he was injured in the try-scoring act. Tythan Adams converted to give South Africa a solid lead at the break.
A sniping break down the blind side by Mike Mavovana opened the scoring for South Africa in the second half and extended the lead to 17-0. He also had a hand in the final try to South Africa, sending Sokoyisa Makata through a gap. Makata still had some work to do but finished well to extend the lead to 22-0.
Hard-working JC Pretorius was handed a yellow-card for not releasing and the New Zealand representatives could put together enough phases to take advantage of this, but the hard work was done and Schoeman and coach Paul Delport could give their high-fives with a big smile on their faces.
Earlier on Sunday the SA Rugby Sevens Academy made it to the final by beating Seven Elite Basque 12-0 in the semifinal.
On Friday, the team won pool matches against Belgium and Seventise and on Saturday beat Midi Pyranees and won their quarterfinal clash against Free Sevens 28-7.