Blitzboks still top Sevens standings after heart-breaking defeat

BY MARC JACOBSON - FEBRUARY 1, 2016

Despite suffering a last-gasp defeat to New Zealand in the Cup final at Wellington on Sunday, the Blitzboks still moved to top spot on the overall standings after three rounds.

They earned a much-needed 19 points by becoming 24-21 runners-up in Wellington – giving them a two-point advantage over Fiji; accumulating a total of 54 points over the three rounds.

New Zealand were propelled to third place after their maximum 22 points achieved, while Fiji claimed second spot, adding 17 points, after winning their third/fourth play-off against England 24-12.

The final between South Africa and New Zealand contained some questionable and controversial refereeing decisions that seemed to have favoured the home side significantly.

According to Sport24, Australian referee Matt O’Brien, gave New Zealand eight penalties to one, generally at breakdown contingencies.

After leading 21-7 with just approximately four minutes to go, the on-form Rosko Specman was yellow-carded for a professional fowl and sent off for two minutes.

Thereafter, New Zealand scored two quick successive tries with an extra man on the field, taking the game to within two. Specman came back on with half a minute to go.

The Blitzboks then showed some promise for sealing the game out when Juan de Jongh made a break-through from his own half into New Zealand territory before passing to Seabelo Senatla.

After advancing a few metres, Senatla was thumped by an eager New Zealand defense, but nonetheless managed to get an offload through to Cheslin Kolbe, who was just about to jet through to the New Zealand line for a try before the referee controversially called the pass forward.

New Zealand then regrouped and advanced gradually up the field from that scrum through successive penalties from referee O’Brien and go-forward ball, as they clinched the game in the dying seconds to win the Wellington Cup final.

Prior to the final loss to New Zealand, the Blitzboks beat Fiji 31-0 in the Semi-final; beat Australia 24-12 in the quarter-final; lost to New Zealand 19-14 also in the last seconds of their group match and beat Russia 54-0 and Scotland 28-5 respectively.

The next HSBC Sevens World Series round will be staged in Sydney, Australia, this-coming weekend upon which the Blitzboks can redeem themselves, despite still topping the overall standings.

Abbreviated Standings after round three:

1. South Africa- 54

2. Fiji- 52

3. New Zealand- 47

4. England- 41

5. Argentina- 41

6. USA- 39

7. Australia- 35