Coach Neil Powell and captain Kyle Brown have hailed the Blitzboks’ defensive efforts on the opening day of sevens action at the Rio Olympics, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Blitzboks clinched convincing wins over Spain (24-0) and France (26-0) on day one, with their physicality on defence one of the clear hallmarks of their game as they kept both opponents scoreless.
Such ferocity on defence was also a feature of the Blitzboks’ game during the 2015-16 World Rugby Sevens Series, which saw them emerge as the side that made the most tackles (1,500), with an impressive 80% completion ratio.
The Blitzboks’ linespeed on defence and physicality in the tackle have been aspects of their game that they have honed in order to offer more than just a typical threat with ball in hand at the Olympics.
After the Blitzboks’ opening-day victories, they will now turn their attention to facing Australia on Wednesday (16:30 SA time), with the Aussies having started their campaign with a shock loss to France before bouncing back to beat Spain.
Powell suggested they would take confidence out of their clinical start at the Olympics, particularly after setting a benchmark on defence.
‘We made a nice step up from the Spain game when were were a bit rusty. The real positive was that we kept France scoreless; they’re a very special attacking team that score a lot of tries. We’ll have to get back to zero before taking on Australia, but that was a very encouraging effort against France.’
While the opening day of action did see some surprise results, most notably when New Zealand lost to Japan, there was no such trouble for Olympic gold-medal favourites Fiji. This season’s series winners cruised past Brazil before overcoming Argentina, and will next face the USA on Wednesday.
There’s no doubt the Blitzboks’ defence will need to be spot on should they come up against their arch-rival islanders, with Brown acknowledging that this was the big positive to take out of their clash with France.
‘The biggest success factor was the defence, it was a big step up in terms of pushing our line speed. France are a lethal team on attack, so we’re happy with that. Hopefully we can keep improving and play our best rugby as proceedings progress.’
Blitzboks Olympic fixtures and results (SA times):
Tuesday, 9 August:
Beat Spain 24-0
Beat France 26-0
Wednesday, 10 August:
vs Australia (16:30)
Start of playoffs (21:00)
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images