Blitzboks stutter as Fiji wins in Cape Town

10 December 2018 - 10:04 By Craig Ray
A view of the Blitzboks after the final whistle during day 2 of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens match 44, Bronze Medal Final match between South Africa vs New Zealand at Cape Town Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
A view of the Blitzboks after the final whistle during day 2 of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens match 44, Bronze Medal Final match between South Africa vs New Zealand at Cape Town Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Blitzboks salvaged something from another frustrating weekend of World Sevens Series rugby by beating New Zealand 10-5 in the bronze medal match at the Cape Town Sevens on Sunday.

After the previous weekend’s sixth-place finish in Dubai‚ the outcome was a step in the right direction for South Africa‚ but as many questions as answers were raised by the performance.

Fiji also bounced back from a mediocre performance in Dubai where they came fifth‚ thrashing the USA 29-15 in the final.

It was Fiji’s first win in South Africa since 2005 when the tournament was held in George. Their last final appearance in South Africa was in George in 2009.

“We were disappointed last week and we didn’t perform like we can‚ but we bounced back well here‚” Fiji coach Gareth Baber said.

“We had a real battle against South Africa in the semi-final‚ but we came good.”

The USA‚ runners-up in round one in Dubai‚ are top of the overall standings on 38 log points‚ New Zealand‚ fourth in Cape Town and winners in Dubai are second with 37 points. Fiji are up to third on 35 points‚ England are fourth with 30 and the Blitzboks have 29 points.

From an SA perspective‚ the Blitzboks were guilty of too many missed tackles and against the physicality of Fiji and New Zealand they were bossed in contact.

These are areas coach Neil Powell will ponder as the team goes into the festive season hiatus.

The Blitzboks lost their final Pool game 26-21 against New Zealand in the final seconds on day one and they suffered the same fate in the Cup semi-final against Fiji‚ losing 17-12 to the last move of the match.

So victory over NZ to take third was a massive result in the context of a season where they have to finish in the top four to earn an automatic berth to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

After battling through the quarterfinals with a 21-12 win over a mediocre Scotland side‚ the Blitzboks had their chances against Fiji but faltered due to their own mistakes.

Fiji scored three tries in total and all came from scrums‚ two deep inside their own half‚ and both came from simple missed tackles in the midfield.

First the wonderfully agile Vilimoni Botitu smashed through Werner Kok and Justin Geduld 70 metres out and then Waisea Nacuqu followed the same script from a scrum to brush Rosko Specman aside.

The Blitzboks managed to stay in the game with tries from Siviwe Soyizwapi and Specman‚ but their own errors cost them two more fine chances.

A couple of handling errors in the Fiji red zone allowed the islanders to escape.

More disappointingly‚ Fiji were down to six men in the final two minutes with the scores locked at 12-12 and SA failed to maximise their chance.

Instead they again coughed up possession and from the scrum‚ Fiji scored through Alosio Naduva with a lightning attack down the blindside.

How the Blitzboks‚ with an extra man on the field‚ were caught short on defence on the short side‚ is a mystery.

Defeat was the Blitzboks fifth loss of the season after losing three matches in Dubai.

It’s the worst start to a campaign in almost a decade and coach Neil Powell is clearly battling to fill the gaps left by the departures of so many key players over the past few years.

In the quarterfinal against Scotland the Blitzboks overcame a yellow card and some defensive lapses to advance to the showdown with Fiji.

In that match Soyizwapi earned a first half yellow card for a high tackle and was lucky to not to concede a second yellow after the break with two more high tackles.

The Blitzboks lost Philip Snyman and Muller du Plessis‚ to injury before day started. 

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