Blitzboks seek to stamp redeeming authority in London

BY MARC JACOBSON - MAY 19, 2016

Ahead of the last HSBC Sevens Rugby tournament of the 2015/16 Sevens schedule – held in London this weekend, Blitzboks Captain, Philip Snyman, is determined for his side to finish on a high note.

The tournament will be held in the home of English rugby, Twickenham Stadium, and with South Africa only second on the overall Sevens standings – 14 points behind Fiji, the team will have an extra spring of determination for their efforts this weekend. South Africa won the Plate final in Paris last weekend.

The determination also seeps through the back-drop that following the conclusion of the schedule, the Blitzboks will step toward preparing for the very first Olympic Sevens in the Rio Olympics in August this year.

"We have played some good sevens rugby this season. We only won once in Cape Town and played in a couple of other finals, but are not content with that. The season was also one of near-misses for us coming desperately short on a couple of occasions and we owe it to ourselves and our supporters to fix that. We want to finish strong, not only because it will reward the hard work put in over this year, but also because we want to make the country and our supporters proud," Snyman told Sport24.

With this in mind, the South African Sevens side have showed strong promise and tremendous efforts throughout the season, with a consistent yield of performances. What lacked, however, was the team’s execution when it came to the crucial knock-out games on the quests to the Cup title (the reward for the overall winner per tournament).

Many pundits would suggest a choker’s tag adjoining the Blitzboks side when it comes to must-win matches, as even after being knocked out, they had, on all but one occasion, managed to get the pre-requisite silverware to the Cup such as the bronze or the Plate title (contention of the losers of the quarter-finalists).

With exception to losing in the Cup Final and getting the silver in two tournaments, the Blitzboks have managed to win two Plate titles and three bronzes in different tournaments respectively. South Africa won their solitude Cup title in the Cape Town Sevens in December.

Statistics suggest that out of the 24 overall pool games played this season, South Africa won 22 of them with an astonishing overall point’s difference of +637. Their dominance at the pool stages, however, were not reflected in the Cup knock-outs, with that tally being a total of 11 wins out 19 matches.

In pre-requisite titles, the Blitzboks won seven out of eight matches, with the single loss coming in the third/fourth play-off against Fiji at the Sydney Sevens in February. All-in-all, pool games, Cup knock-outs and pre-requisites title games together, South Africa has won 40 out of 51 matches in the 2015/16 HSBC Sevens Series so far, ahead of the conclusive London Sevens this weekend.

To get rid of the choking monkey on their backs, the Blitzboks would aim to justify themselves as a team and consolidate a Cup title in London by working on crucial errors when crunch time heeds pressure.

“We are working on those small issues that tripped us up in France and will do our best come this weekend. We need to be a bit more aggressive in the rucks and our kick-offs needs a bit of detail, so we worked to fix that this week. But we also played some very good sevens for most of the time this year, so is keen to showcase that type of form,” Snyman said regarding the team’s altercations.

The team sees two changes from the Paris Sevens tournament, with Ruhan Nel and Kwagga Smith out injured and being replaced by Siviwe Soyizwapi and Chris Dry resepctively, who have both last ran out for the Blitzboks in the Singapore Sevens tournament two weeks ago.

South Africa are grouped with Samoa, Canada and USA in Pool A at the London Sevens with their main threat coming against Samoa, who had knocked them out of the Cup quarter-finals in Paris last week.

Team for the London Sevens: (Number of tournaments in brackets)

Chris Dry (51), Philip Snyman (36, c), Tim Agaba (6), Ryan Kankowski (7), Francois Hougaard (5), Kyle Brown (55), Dylan Sage (6), Stephan Dippenaar (28), Rosko Specman (12), Cecil Afrika (44), Seabelo Senatla (28), Siviwe Soyizwapi (2).

South Africa’s 2015/16 Sevens schedule so far:

Dubai- Plate winners

Cape Town- Cup champions

Wellington- Cup runners-up

Sydney- Fourth-placed

Las Vegas- Bronze title

Vancouver- Cup runners-up

Hong Kong- Bronze title

Singapore- Bronze title

Paris- Plate winners

London- ?