Rugby

Blitzboks need to redeem themselves at home after Dubai disappointment

02 December 2018 - 00:00 By CRAIG RAY

The Blitzboks will have some atonement to make at their home tournament in Cape Town next week after a dismal weekend in Dubai in the opening round of the 2018/19 HSBC World Sevens Series.
SA managed only a sixth-place finish at the season-opening tournament to leave them on the back foot after round one of the World Series.
After losing three matches out of six in two days in Dubai, the series could not have started more poorly for the champions.
Olympic champions Fiji, joint pre-tournament favourites with SA, were also relegated to contesting the minor placings and eventually beat the Blitzboks 24-19 after extra time in the fifth/sixth play-off.
The result meant the Blitzboks earned only 12 log points for their efforts in the Emirate, which has set them back significantly.
After losing 15-12 to Argentina in their final pool match on the first day the Blitzboks still managed to top Pool A and set up a quarterfinal meeting with England.
But the English were too good for a sloppy Blitzboks, scoring four tries as they thrashed the defending Series and Dubai champions 22-5 in the quarterfinals. It was the first time in nearly two years that Neil Powell's team failed to make the semifinals at a World Series event.
New Zealand went on to win the title with a 21-5 victory over the US, who surprised Fiji with a 24-14 win in the quarterfinals.
The Kiwis have not won the World Series since 2014 while the winner of the season-opening Dubai tournament has gone on to win the overall series for the last five years.
It was the first time since 2009 that New Zealand have won in Dubai, and they achieved it without four first-choice players who were injured before the final.
With Olympic qualification the main goal for the season, and guaranteed for the top four teams at the end of the campaign, it was a messy start for SA.
They never looked comfortable and despite beating Zimbabwe 31-0 on day one, they laboured to a 19-12 victory over Samoa before slipping up against Argentina.
England were too good for SA though the Blitzboks bounced back with a 29-0 win over Scotland in the Plate play-offs.
After winning the last two Dubai tournaments the Blitzboks have never gone into Cape Town with massive expectation on their shoulders.
This year they will go into their home tournament with a point to prove. And it might just be the boost they need to find another gear next week...

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