Sevens’ stellar year

2014-12-17 00:00

SEVENS fans will have to wait until ­February for their next dose of high-tempo action but the good news is that the Blitzbokke are firmly on top of the HSBC Sevens Series standings.

The South African Sevens side made it two tournament wins in a row on Sunday night when they beat New Zealand in the Cup final of the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth.

A poor start to the season at the Gold Coast Sevens has been more than made up for after the Blitzbokke won the Dubai Sevens two weeks ago and made it a double in PE — successfully defending their home title, having won the PE Sevens in 2013.

With a good two-month break until the next stop on the circuit in New ­Zealand, there is time to reflect on what has been a momentous year for the Blitzbokke.

Just one year into his tenure as coach, Neil Powell has already claimed a Commonwealth Games gold medal in June while his charges topped off the year with two fantastic tournament victories.

In doing so, Powell has unlocked some of the most talented young Sevens players in the country while maintaining a strong contingent of experienced campaigners.

The mix of youth and old heads definitely gave the Blitzbokke an upper hand after an indifferent Gold Coast Sevens. The short break and training before the Dubai leg of the Series proved vital and the South Africans brushed up a number of crucial areas that Powell was concerned with.

Speaking to The Witness last month, the coach admitted that defence is the most challenging aspect of Sevens.

“You need to control the game and keep the ball in hand. Defence is incredibly difficult because it is so tiring. You need to put points on the board when you can,” Powell said.

Those words rang true in the way Powell’s players went about business in the Dubai desert and evergreen Nelson ­Mandela Bay Stadium.

The Blitzbokke were dogged on ­defence and attacked the breakdowns ­relentlessly while maintaining good defensive structures. Werner Kok and Kwagga Smith were particularly impressive in this regard. Kok was the leading tackler in PE (58) while Smith was close behind with 49 tackles.

South Africa’s defensive effort was equally matched by their amazing attacking ability. The brains trust of Branco du Preez and Cecil Afrika showed why experience counts as they set up a number of tries and went over for a couple themselves.

But it was Seabelo Senatla who blew away the opposition with his sheer pace.

The Western Province wing scored eight tries in their six PE matches. ­Altogether, he is the second highest point scorer after three Series legs, having scored 20 tries.

The Blitzbokke also welcomed back their regular captain Kyle Brown, who ­recently recovered from a shoulder ­injury. The blond stalwart played a vital role off the bench and quickly returned to form while adding some needed physicality on both attack and defence.

As it stands, Powell’s Blitzbokke are top of the Sevens Series standings with 59 points. Fiji are placed second with 51 points after losing to USA in the PE Plate final and New Zealand sit in third with 47 points.

The next stop of the Sevens Series kicks off in Wellington, New Zealand, on February 6.

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