Cape Town - With a run of injuries to key players before and during the Hamilton Sevens, Blitzboks coach, Neil Powell said he was extremely proud of his players after they lost 24-17 in the fina to Fiji.
Having lost their captain, Philip Snyman, and senior player, Ruhan Nel, to injury after the Sydney Sevens and then Dylan Sage after Day One of the inaugural Hamilton event due to concussion, the Blitzboks were already stretched going into day two of the tournament.
They also faced Fiji in the final without the services of the injured Justin Geduld and Rosko Specman, and had to play the match with only ten fit players.
Powell, who was disappointed in the result of the final, said that overall it was a good trip for the team and that he was proud of their effort.
“That is sevens for you. We had an opportunity to score and did not, they countered and scored and then got the momentum. One or two moments like that and the game is gone,” the coach explained.
“It was a very good and gutsy performance by the team. We fought until the last minute, I cannot ask for more. We had a tough week, but the guys really stuck to their guns.”
Powell elaborated on their long-term strategy.
“We are also managing our players, as we have a big season in 2018. The decision not to risk Justin and Rosko in the final was because of the bigger picture. They need to be 100% come Las Vegas, as we are losing four players back to fifteens now. Same with Philip and Rohan, who is already doing recovery after being send back from Sydney.”
Powell is not complaining about extending their overall lead either. “If we won both finals we played on tour, that would have been ideal, but we increased our lead and that was important for us.”
Seabelo Senatla, who scored eight tries at the tournament, said the players are pleased with the weekend’s effort, despite the defeat in the final.
“It was tough with only ten players as our bench is important to bring new energy into the team, but we did well under the circumstances and I think we played better than was the case in last weekend’s final in Sydney.”
Senatla applauded the consistency in the effort of the team. “Of course you want to reach finals and win them, like we did last year in New Zealand and Australia, but reaching both finals showed some consistency in our effort and that is something that we are also looking to maintain.