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Something missing in Singapore and Vancouver, admits Blitzboks coach Powell

21 April 2022 - 09:32 By Sports staff
James Murphy of South Africa goes over for a try in the HSBC Canada Sevens fifth-place playoff against New Zealand at BC Place in Vancouver on April 17 2022.
James Murphy of South Africa goes over for a try in the HSBC Canada Sevens fifth-place playoff against New Zealand at BC Place in Vancouver on April 17 2022.
Image: David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images

Six tries against France and a victory over New Zealand in their last two matches at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver, plus an improved finish from Singapore a week before, pointed to a positive ending for the Blitzboks at the end of their Asia and North America trip.

But the overall performances remained below par and cannot be sugar-coated, said Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell in his frank assessment at the completion of the fifth and sixth legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Singapore and Vancouver.

The Blitzboks saw an erosion of their overall lead on the standings by Argentina and Australia. SA now lead the World Series by only six points on 111, with Argentina (105) and Australia (100) closing in.

The Blitzboks could only garner 23 points in the last two tournaments, while Argentina gathered 35 and Australia 34. Three tournaments remain, in Toulouse and London at the end of May, and Los Angeles late in August.

Powell was not looking at the standings only in his assessment of the Blitzboks’ performances. After winning all three their pool matches on the first day in Vancouver, the South Africans lost to Samoa in the Cup quarterfinal before rebounding with wins against France and New Zealand to finish the tournament in fifth place overall.

 “It was a tough two weeks and not something that we are happy about as a team,” Powell said.

“We will have to ask ourselves tough questions on what happened and what areas we need to improve on. As individuals, we will have a serious conversation on our performances, but also as a team, where we did not function as we should have.

“The way we finished in those last two matches remains a positive, we really turned it around. But that does not detract from those weak moments, and we need to be hard on ourselves to make sure it does not happen in the next two tournaments.”

The squad did not show their usual consistency in performances.

“We had hot and cold moments and sadly those cold ones proved crucial and costly. It is something we need to look at — the players and the coaching staff alike — to see how and why it happened and what can be done to prevent that.

“This is a physical and a mental game and at times we did not mentally respond the way we used to.”

There were positives for Powell too, which included the return of Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand to the World Series after missing out in the early rounds due to the pandemic.

“They do test you in different ways and areas and some of the young guys in the team needed to learn and experience what those were,” he said.

“You can tell them what to expect, but they might not believe you until they experienced it themselves, especially the physicality in contact areas. We needed to play against them and though we lost two [Fiji and Samoa] and won the one [New Zealand] we can be successful against them if we implement correctly.”

James Murphy, who scored the winning try against New Zealand, feels a better start to their matches will be crucial for the Blitzboks.

“We lost to Samoa — and credit to them — by playing against ourselves as well.

“That first half was horrible. We conceded penalties, we gave the ball away and allowed them too much of a lead. We need to cut out those errors, because when we did against France and New Zealand, we could stay in the game.”

SA face Samoa, Ireland and Spain in Pool D in Toulouse to be played on May 20-22.

Argentina, who won in Vancouver, will travel to France as top seeds and will face England, Canada and Japan in Pool A, while Fiji, France, Wales and Kenya will contest Pool B. Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and USA will be in a competitive Pool C.

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