Tokyo Olympics

Bittersweet victory for Soyizwapi: 'It's the toughest tournament I've ever had'

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Blitzboks captain Siviwe Soyizwapi
Blitzboks captain Siviwe Soyizwapi
Anton Geyser/SASPA/SASI

Blitzboks captain Siviwe Soyizwapi admits that despite registering two wins to end their Olympics campaign, they were disappointed with their fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Games.

A Covid-hit Blitzboks ended the troubling event with two wins after defeating the United States of America in the men's 5-8 placing match at Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday.

After their disappointing loss to a six-man Argentinian side in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, South Africa bounced back with a 21-19 win against Australia and then a convincing 28-7 victory against the USA to close their Olympic campaign.

With coach Neil Powell back with the squad, the Blitzboks looked like their old self again, but it was too late.

This year, Soyizwapi and his side were hoping to replicate their 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medal and were highly favoured to reach the podium once again in Tokyo.

"It's bittersweet, it is a win and it is how we wanted to play, but it wasn't the goal. It wasn't what we were hunting for," said Soyizwapi.

"Our coach is an integral part of this team, and it was very special to have him back and unfortunately, we didn't get the gold for him."

The Blitzboks have been through one of the most difficult starts to any event. Since arriving in Japan, Covid-19 struck their camp as Powell tested positive on the plane.

It meant that Renfred Dazel would take interim charge of the troops as Powell stayed behind in Kagoshima for 14 days.

The squad was then stuck in isolation for five days before finally training in separate groups. 

Soyizwapi says it was a tough challenge to overcome but insists that his side showed resilience until the end.

"It was a first for me, it's the toughest tournament I've ever had - not even talking about what's happening on the field. All the challenges we had to overcome and the difficulties," said Soyizwapi.

"The boys have made me proud as a captain and the coaches proud. Each and every challenge that came our way, we overcame it and moved past it.

"A pandemic happening is a challenge on its own and that was the biggest challenge we faced around the pandemic.

"It was tough, but I'm proud of the boys' mental strength to come this far through all that."

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympic Games for Sport24

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