ANALYSIS: Hong Kong Sevens a stretch too far for Blitzboks
The Hong Kong Sevens Tournament may have deemed to be a bridge too far for the Blitzboks, as they suffered a deep and late collapse to Fiji in the Cup Final after being massacred 22-0.
Water did not just run under this bridge, as South Africa were unable to maintain enough elasticity to make the final stretch of winning the Cup Title, and as a result cracked dearly in the Final.
It was some time coming that the mighty Blitzboks, who have been in immense form in the current World Sevens Series campaign, were to lose out to any other opposition other than their proclaimed bogeys, England.
The Blitzboks may have also suffered a momentum shift after losing Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla to Super Rugby commitments, while Justin Geduld and Rosko Specman were lost to injuries.
The aforementioned four starred for the Blitzboks in the prior tournaments leading up to Hong Kong, and the side were forced to reform with new, inexperienced recruits entering the ‘never say die’ fold.
The South Africans, however, by a mile did not disgrace themselves after still proceeding to the Cup Finals with gruelling wins over New Zealand (quarter-finals) and USA (semi-finals).
Scraping past both sides in the knock-outs, it could be argued that those wins took a lot out of them heading into the Cup Final.
The Blitzboks won 21-19, by a mere conversion, against New Zealand, and although they had the game wrapped when the scores were 21-12 on stoppage time, the All Blacks Sevens struck back with a constellation, already exposing leaks on South Africa’s heaved efforts.
Against USA, the game was a match of two halves, as South Africa appeared to only take it to their opponents in the first half with a 24-7 lead at the break. Kept scoreless in the second half, the Blitzboks could not prolong their intensity, as again leaks exposed them to conceding three unanswered tries in the second, as the match closed to a 24-24 draw.
All credit to the Blitzboks, as they then managed to up the tempo in the sudden death, after closing USA out on defence, before switching over to an attacking streak which sent Ruhan Nel in for a try, striking first and last blood, winning 29-24.
The Cup Final against Fiji then showed to be the last straw, as the Blitzboks were whitewashed by a far more superior side, who in evidence have shown Hong Kong to be their playground – winning the Hong Kong Sevens the last three years in a row.
On the other side of the coin, South Africa has never won the Hong Kong Sevens, and remains the only sevens tournament that they have not in fact won. However, some pride can still be instilled in the Blitzboks for being the second-best of 16 sides over the weekend.
Grouped with France, Canada and Kenya in Pool B, the Blitzboks beat France 17-10, Kenya 35-10 and Canada 26-7 before heading to the knockouts.
Although relatively unscathed in the knockouts after beating Canada 29-12 in the quarters, Australia 33-12 in the semis and then thrashing South Africa in the final; Fiji did suffer scares against Wales (drawing 17-17) and New Zealand (winning 17-14) in the Pool stages.
After heeding much consistency in the 2016/17 Sevens campaign, reaching their seventh consecutive Cup Final and winning 37 out of a total 42 games, the Blitzboks still maintain a 23-point lead at the top of the HSBC World Sevens Series Standings above Fiji.
After the Vancouver Sevens it was a 23-point lead above England, now it’s Fiji, still the same gap, but a different side playing catch up, so South Africa can be pleased to still be enthroned comfortably at the top with just three tournaments to play of the 2016/17 Series.
Top 10 on the current 2016/17 World Sevens Series Standings:
- South Africa- 145
- Fiji- 122
- England- 113
- New Zealand- 97
- USA- 82
- Australia- 79
- Argentina- 69
- Scotland- 61
- Canada- 54
- Wales- 53
Image: South Africa posing with silver alongside Fiji (gold) and Australia (bronze) at the Hong Kong Sevens.
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