The Blitzboks will have more than one point to prove in the Cape Town Sevens tournament this weekend, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Blitzboks produced a lacklustre showing in the first leg of the 2018-19 World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai. After losing to Argentina in the pool phase, they went down to England in the quarter-finals and ultimately had to settle for sixth place after losing to Fiji.
Meanwhile, New Zealand went on to beat the USA in the Cup final. The Kiwis will go into the second leg of the series with all the momentum. They may fancy their chances of claiming another Cape Town Sevens title after winning the tournament last year.
The Blitzboks went down 19-12 to New Zealand in the semi-final of that competition. After being knocked out of the Cup, the hosts went on to win the Plate final. It was small consolation, though, given they were favourites to claim the big prize.
The Blitzboks and New Zealand will clash during the pool stage of this year’s tournament. The winner of that game, which will bring the curtain down on day one, will determine which side tops Pool A and secures an easier path to the Cup semi-finals.
Earlier this week, Werner Kok – one of the senior players in the Blitzboks setup – called on his teammates to lift their standards on defence. Kok also lamented the side’s misfiring attack. He spoke of the need to make the most of scoring opportunities in the big matches this weekend.
The Blitzboks will be physically tested in the pool phase. Samoa and New Zealand in particular will look to trouble South Africa at the collisions. As Kok put it, the Blitzboks can’t afford to miss one-on-one tackles this week. They can’t afford to concede soft penalties either.
South Africa are wary of meeting Australia in the quarter-finals. If the Blitzboks lose their clash against the Kiwis on Saturday, they may well face the Aussies in the playoffs on Sunday.
Overall, the Blitzboks will be looking to claim their first Cape Town Sevens title since 2015.
BLITZBOKS FIXTURES (DAY 1)
12:27: vs Samoa
15:48: vs Zimbabwe
19:56: vs New Zealand
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images