The Blitzboks slumped to a 29-7 defeat against Fiji in their Cup semi-final in Hamilton on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Coming into this clash, Fiji boasted a perfect win record against their fierce rivals this season, having won the previous two fixtures at the Dubai and Cape Town tournaments. And they extended that streak to three straight with a dominant display in Hamilton to book a place in the final.
South Africa next face hosts New Zealand, who lost 17-7 to the USA in the other semi-final, for the third-place playoff encounter at 8:10am (SA time).
What makes this defeat so difficult to comprehend, was the manner in which happened. In previous defeats to Fiji, blame could always be laid on defensive lapses. But here, even the Blitzboks’ usual accuracy on attack was amiss. The Blitzboks were out-thought, out-muscled and ultimately out-played.
In a rapid start to the game, Fiji opened up a 14-point lead in no time. First Kalione Nasoko fended off no less than three Blitzboks players to score the opener, then Aminiasi Tuimaba raced down the wing to finish a move that started 5m from their own line.
The Blitzboks continued to concede cheap turnovers and were made to pay. When Kyle Brown was sent off for a dangerous tackle on the stroke of half-time, Fiji ruthlessly exploited the one-man advantage to grab a third for a 19-point lead.
The Blitzboks looked short of answers to Fiji’s powerful running game and were devoid of ideas on attack. Fiji, though, simply continued their onslaught, and soon Waisea Nacuqu went over for their fourth try.
South Africa’s first real scoring opportunity came in the 15th minute when they created a two-on-one overlap on the right touchline. With the tryline in sight, Kyle Brown fumbled Selvyn Davids’ inaccurate pass to just about sum up the Blitzboks’ performance.
Sighting the absence of a sweeper at the back for Fiji, Davids made up for his early error with a precise kick and gather to get South Africa on the scoreboard, but by then it was much too late to count for anything. Adding insult to injury, Tuimaba dashed away for his second try to complete the rout.
Photo: @oceaniarugby/Twitter/Ridiqiulas Photography