The Blitzboks’ defence will be in the spotlight when they face the more physical teams at the Cape Town Sevens this weekend. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Much was made of the Blitzboks’ defence in the wake of their second consecutive World Rugby Sevens Series title triumph earlier this year. The South Africans finished the 2017-18 series as one of the most physical and accurate defensive units on show.
Their aggressive defence forced turnovers and created attacking opportunities, and allowed them to claim big wins over other top teams. Coach Neil Powell and the senior players spoke of the progress they had made in this department as vital to their sustained success.
With that in mind, they should be disappointed with their performances, as well as their results in the first leg of the 2018-19 series. The Blitzboks missed 55 tackles at the Dubai tournament, and finished with a concerning 64% tackle-completion rate.
They will have the opportunity to prove a point this weekend when they line up against traditionally physical sides like New Zealand and Samoa during the pool stage. Werner Kok, one of the senior players in the side, revealed that a change in mindset is required ahead of those clashes.
‘We have to get our system into place,’ Kok said following a training session at Bishops on Tuesday. ‘We saw it coming together in the last two games of the [Dubai] tournament. The one-on-one tackles were a lot better. There are some positives that we can take out of those games.
‘Defence is certainly something we will be looking at closely in the training session on Thursday. We made some poor decisions and conceded turnovers. We also made too many high tackles that led to penalties and opportunities to the opposition.
‘We have to go in lower with our tackles this weekend. Overall, the defensive line needs to be better and we have to work harder to get the ball back.’
Kok added that the Blitzboks would need to be more clinical when they did get their hands on the ball.
‘Patience is a big work-on after last week. There were a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take in Dubai. We have to translate those chances into points.’
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