Coach Neil Powell has lauded the Blitzboks’ 26-14 win over Fiji, but believes his team can play even better in their final Pool A clash against the USA later on Saturday.
The Blitzboks fell behind 14-0 early on in their highly-anticipated match against rivals Fiji after conceding a yellow card, but the hosts launched a comeback for the ages to clinch a 12-point win in front of the raucous home crowd.
But while the fans will applaud the attacking nous of these Blitzboks, Powell praised his side’s defensive effort
‘We knew it was going to be a tough one, there are never more than two tries in it in this fixture either way. Obviously, it was not a great start with the yellow card and the two tries we conceded. If you give yellow cards away especially against Fiji, they are going to punish you for it. But credit to the boys for how they got their composure back in the second half and how they closed it out at the end,’ Powell said.
‘Defence is something we’ve focused on a lot these last few weeks and especially making our one-on-one hits, no matter how big the opposition guys are that are running onto you. And the guys did well, they stuck to the one on one tackles. It was an amazing defensive performance,’ Powell raved.
Another feature of South Africa’s game that stood out was their excellent work at kick-offs. Their kick-off receipt was perfect and Dylan Sage’s contesting of the ball when Justin Geduld kicked off was flawless.
‘Fiji build their game around the kick off. If they can get that ball back, they get staggered defence. We know if we get the ball and hang onto it we are in the game,’ Powell commented. ‘I’m happy with how the boys managed to hang onto the kicks offs. Justin Geduld was really good in that game. He is moving well and he is reading the flight of the ball nicely so that is definitely one of the factors that helped us to be successful in this game.
‘Dylan Sage is growing into his role of contesting for possession. It’s something he did in the past for us before he left for 15s. And it puts that more pressure on the opposition to know that we can also get the ball back, we don’t just give them the ball back and defend.’
South Africa play the USA next and Powell has asked his charges to step up and deliver a more polished performance.
‘It’s all about our standards and what we want to achieve. By far it wasn’t perfect in this last game and there are lots of things we can improve on as a team. Hopefully we make a step-up in the next game to get us good momentum and confidence into day three. We’ll put all our efforts and energy into the last game to make sure we have a good platform to play from tomorrow.’