Blitzboks fall short in Cape Town

2019-12-17 06:00
Justin Geduld of the Blitzboks (right) escapes the tackles of two Fijian players, Vilimoti Botitu and Jerry Tuwai, during the group stage of the HSBC Sevens tournament played at Cape Town stadium on Saturday 14 December. PHOTO: RashiED Isaacs

Justin Geduld of the Blitzboks (right) escapes the tackles of two Fijian players, Vilimoti Botitu and Jerry Tuwai, during the group stage of the HSBC Sevens tournament played at Cape Town stadium on Saturday 14 December. PHOTO: RashiED Isaacs

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While the boisterous partisan crowd filled the air with expectation at the Cape Town stadium, the Blitzboks fell agonisingly short of claiming their home leg of World Rugby’s Sevens World Series on Sunday 15 December.

Coach Neil Powell’s men were beaten 7-5 by archrivals New Zealand in a nervy final in front of the 55 804-strong crowd who packed the stadium. In total, 119 539 people streamed through the gates during the three-day spectacle – a record for the event.

After a scoreless first half, Justin Geduld handed the home team the lead after the restart but could not slot the subsequent conversion. As a result, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black broke South African hearts three minutes later when he dotted over under the posts, which made Akuila Rokolisoa’s pending conversion a mere formality.

Despite the loss, Powell was satisfied with his team’s display over the past two weekends, which saw them bag the title in Dubai a week earlier.

“We had two good weeks, playing in two finals and winning one,” said Powell.

“That is a much better start than last season and, bar the two line-outs we fluffed in the final, we had a good tournament. I certainly cannot fault the effort of the players.”

Earlier in the day, in their semi-final, the Blitzboks had to fight back to secure a 21-14 win over France. Despite Marvin O’Connor’s try, converted by Paulin Riva, an inspired phase of play, which started within their half, saw Ruhan Nel dive over for a seven-point score. JC Pretorius’s clever dummy flummoxed the French defence and allowed him to coast over the try line unopposed, allowing the Blitzboks to lead the contest for the first time. Geduld duly slotted the conversion to move the score to 14-7.

Captain Siviwe Soyizwapi capped off a spirited display, rounding off another attacking move from their defensive quarter to take the match beyond France’s reach and to book their spot in the showpiece of the tournament despite a late consolation try by Jonathan Laugel. In their quarter-final clash against Kenya, Blitzboks turned in a clinical second-half display to see out their fellow Africans in a 17-5 win.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Local hearts were sent aflutter when, against the run of play, Kenya took an early 5-0 lead through an unconverted try by Alvin Otieno.

However, Nel would restore parity, much to the delight of the home crowd, but Justin Geduld failed to convert, leaving the scores deadlocked at 5-5 at half-time.

During the tournament, Geduld became the fourth South African player in the World Series to score 1000 career points after Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez and Seabelo Senatla.

Shortly after the restart, Nel would secure his brace after rounding off a well-orchestrated line-out, converted by Geduld. Selwyn Davids put the game beyond Kenya’s grasp when he chased down a kick by skipper Soyizwapi. Nel, however, could not play in the final after picking up an injury in the semi-final win. He was sorely missed.

“It was a pity that I could not play in the final, but that is the way rugby goes sometimes,” said Nel.

“At least I played in two full tournaments and we did very well. I am now returning to fifteens, but I am very pleased with my short comeback to sevens. At least I know my conditioning will be right up there when I join the Stormers soon.”

Meanwhile, the Springbok women’s Sevens team, Imbokodo, who made their debut at the Cape Town Sevens, finished 10th. Coach Paul Delport applauded his squad’s efforts, saying the tenth-place finish was what they were aiming for.

“We realised that our intensity was not good enough and, therefore, our defence suffered and we made some poor decisions on attack,” said Delport.

“But that was always par for the course as we last played at any level close to this last year at the Rugby World Cup Sevens.”

While the boisterous partisan crowd filled the air with expectation at the Cape Town stadium, the Blitzboks fell agonisingly short of claiming their home leg of World Rugby’s Sevens World Series on Sunday 15 December.

Coach Neil Powell’s men were beaten 7-5 by archrivals New Zealand in a nervy final in front of the 55 804-strong crowd who packed the stadium. In total, 119 539 people streamed through the gates during the three-day spectacle – a record for the event.

After a scoreless first half, Justin Geduld handed the home team the lead after the restart but could not slot the subsequent conversion. As a result, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black broke South African hearts three minutes later when he dotted over under the posts, which made Akuila Rokolisoa’s pending conversion a mere formality.

Despite the loss, Powell was satisfied with his team’s display over the past two weekends, which saw them bag the title in Dubai a week earlier.

“We had two good weeks, playing in two finals and winning one,” said Powell.

“That is a much better start than last season and, bar the two line-outs we fluffed in the final, we had a good tournament. I certainly cannot fault the effort of the players.”

Earlier in the day, in their semi-final, the Blitzboks had to fight back to secure a 21-14 win over France. Despite Marvin O’Connor’s try, converted by Paulin Riva, an inspired phase of play, which started within their half, saw Ruhan Nel dive over for a seven-point score.

JC Pretorius’s clever dummy flummoxed the French defence and allowed him to coast over the try line unopposed, allowing the Blitzboks to lead the contest for the first time. Geduld duly slotted the conversion to move the score to 14-7.

Captain Siviwe Soyizwapi capped off a spirited display, rounding off another attacking move from their defensive quarter to take the match beyond France’s reach and to book their spot in the showpiece of the tournament despite a late consolation try by Jonathan Laugel. In their quarter-final clash against Kenya, Blitzboks turned in a clinical second-half display to see out their fellow Africans in a 17-5 win.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Local hearts were sent aflutter when, against the run of play, Kenya took an early 5-0 lead through an unconverted try by Alvin Otieno.

However, Nel would restore parity, much to the delight of the home crowd, but Justin Geduld failed to convert, leaving the scores deadlocked at 5-5 at half-time.

During the tournament, Geduld became the fourth South African player in the World Series to score 1000 career points after Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez and Seabelo Senatla.

Shortly after the restart, Nel would secure his brace after rounding off a well-orchestrated line-out, converted by Geduld. Selwyn Davids put the game beyond Kenya’s grasp when he chased down a kick by skipper Soyizwapi. Nel, however, could not play in the final after picking up an injury in the semi-final win. He was sorely missed.

“It was a pity that I could not play in the final, but that is the way rugby goes sometimes,” said Nel.

“At least I played in two full tournaments and we did very well. I am now returning to fifteens, but I am very pleased with my short comeback to sevens. At least I know my conditioning will be right up there when I join the Stormers soon.”

Meanwhile, the Springbok women’s Sevens team, Imbokodo, who made their debut at the Cape Town Sevens, finished 10th. Coach Paul Delport applauded his squad’s efforts, saying the tenth-place finish was what they were aiming for.

“We realised that our intensity was not good enough and, therefore, our defence suffered and we made some poor decisions on attack,” said Delport.

“But that was always par for the course as we last played at any level close to this last year at the Rugby World Cup Sevens.”

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