The Blitzboks still lead the World Sevens Series after finishing fifth at the Canada Sevens, but coach Neil Powell says the overall performances were below par and can’t be sugar-coated.
South Africa are only six points clear of Argentina (105) and Australia (100) after this weekend’s tournament in Vancouver, and could only harvest 23 league points in the past two tournaments. Three tournaments remain, in Toulouse and London at the end of May, and Los Angeles in August.
Powell was not looking at the standings only in his assessment of the Blitzboks – after winning all three pool matches on the first day in Vancouver, the South Africans lost to Samoa in the Cup quarter-final before rebounding with wins over France and New Zealand.
“It was a tough two weeks and not something that we are happy about as a team,” the SA Sevens boss said.
“We will have to ask tough questions to ourselves on what happened and what areas we need to improve on. As individuals, we will have a serious conversation on our performances, but also as a team, where we did not function as we should have.
“The way we finished in those last two matches remains a positive, we really turned it around. But that does not detract from those weak moments, and we need to be hard on ourselves to make sure it does not happen in the next two tournaments.”
Powell added: “We had hot and cold moments and sadly those cold ones proved crucial and very costly. It is something we need to look at – the players and the coaching staff alike – to see how and why it happened and what can be done to prevent that.
“This is a physical and well as a mental game and at times we did not mentally respond the way we used to.”
Despite the disappointments, there were some positives for Powell, too, which included the return of Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand to the World Series after missing out in the early rounds due to the pandemic.
“They do test you in different ways and areas and some of the young guys in the team needed to learn and experience what those were,” he said.
“You can tell them what to expect, but they might not believe you until they experienced it themselves, especially the physicality in contact areas. We needed to play against them and although we lost two [Fiji and Samoa] and won the one [New Zealand] we can be successful against them if we implement correctly.”
For James Murphy, who scored the winning try against New Zealand, there were mixed feelings, but he was proud of the comeback effort.
“From an individual point of view, this was about grabbing opportunities presented and I am pleased with the way I reacted,” said Murphy, who didn’t feature in Singapore and only joined the squad in Vancouver as an injury replacement.
“It is always great to finish off a try like that where the whole team did their bit.”
Murphy feels a better start to their matches will be crucial for the Blitzboks: “We lost to Samoa – and credit to them – by playing against ourselves as well.
“That first half was horrible. We conceded penalties, we gave the ball away and allowed them too much of a lead. We need to cut out those errors, because when we did against France and New Zealand, we could stay in the game.”
— All Blacks Sevens (@AllBlacks7s) April 18, 2022