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Much at stake as Blitzboks await last Cup play-offs

Much at stake as Blitzboks await last Cup play-offs

The first day of the London Sevens saw a handful of notifiable upsets and close-calls, as the HSBC Sevens Series comes to a close this weekend. The conclusion of the series may have rattled some of the favoured sides into finishing strong, but the Blitzboks, however, managed to just sprout into control before buckling under much applied pressure.

A tenacious Canadian side managed to lose in respectable fashion to the Blitzboks – only going down 21-7. South Africa then managed to succumb to a determined USA onslaught and were pushed to their last inch as they came away with a narrow 14-10 victory. In their last pool match, South Africa then showed fine redemption as they thrashed Samoa 22-0.

Some stand-out upsets on day one in London were USA beating defending Cup Champions, Samoa, 12-5; hosts England thrashing current Series leaders, Fiji, 31-10; Scotland beating Kenya 24-12 and Samoa also losing 24-19 to Canada. On top of that, Portugal ran Kenya very close – only losing 22-17 and Argentina managed to force a 12-12 to major contenders, New Zealand.

As the proverb suggests, a miss did prove to be as good as a mile, as South Africa still topped their Pool A unbeaten and progress to play in the Cup quarter-final against runners-up in Pool D, Argentina, on Sunday. USA were runners-up to South Africa and they will face Pool D winners, New Zealand, in their Cup quarter-final.

The near-losses that the Blitzboks experienced in the pool stages may be just be what they need heading into the knock-outs, as their focus rears into gear to prevent another choking fall-out. Evidently, last week in the Paris Sevens, South Africa soared through a tough pool – winning all three games by an average 24.3 points per game and only conceded two tries in their trio of matches. Their very next match they were kicked out of Cup contention by Samoa in the quarter-final, as complacency got the better of the men in green and gold on the day.

Close encounters against underdog sides in the pool stages this time around may have instilled a sense of awareness that anything could happen in the game of sevens rugby. If composure is held and their defence is organized in tandem with their ability to win turnovers, the Cup will be South Africa’s for the taking. After all, a Cup title will give the Blitzboks much needed rolling momentum heading into the Rio Olympic Sevens in August.

Cup quarter-final fixtures and times (Sunday 22nd May):

South Africa vs Argentina (11:58AM SA time).

France vs Fiji (12:20AM SA time).

New Zealand vs USA (12:42AM SA time).

England vs Scotland (13:04PM SA time).

Image: Dylan Sage on attack on day one of the London Sevens. Source: SA Rugby Magazine