South Africa coach Neil Powell praised his side’s immense effort, but admitted there is still plenty of work to do after clinching victory in the opening leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai on Saturday.
The Blitzboks emerged 15-0 winners against New Zealand and they outclassed their rivals in every department throughout the contest.
The omens for this season are promising, too, as for three of the past four seasons the winner in the UAE has also gone on to lift the overall series title.
“I’m happy with the result. There’s still a lot we can do better. It’s not about the outcome, it’s about how we implement the processes, but defensively the guys put a big effort in,” said Powell.
“It wasn’t perfect but I can’t fault them with the effort they put in. I was a bit worried about our slow start against Kenya. I’m happy that every time we played since, we stepped up and showed well.”
The Blitzboks had beaten Argentina (12-5) and Samoa (38-7) in their quarter-final and semi-final respectively, and picked up where they left off, purring with confidence in the decider.
New Zealand offered little in attack and, although they defended superbly at times, it’s hard to stop the speed, power and electric skillset of a team like the Blitzboks.
South Africa enjoyed the bulk of possession and territory in the first half and made the killer breakthrough just before half-time.
From a pacy attack, Kurt-Lee Arednse and Justin Geduld combined to flick the ball out wide to captain Siviwe Soyizwapi who raced in unopposed from close range.
In the second period, South Africa moved the ball with purpose, and were denied further scores due to New Zealand’s steel-like defensive qualities.
Geduld did go close, but from the next attack, the winners whipped the ball out to the left and the unstoppable Seabelo Senatla paved the way to send Chris Dry over for the second try.
With one minute remaining, Senatla saved the best for last, scooping the ball up from the floor to slalom in from 70 metres and complete the scoring.
As ever, Powell lauded the defence as well as the influence of Senatla, who was forced to sit out of Saturday’s action due to an ankle injury.
“We always say we pride ourselves on our defence. Again, at times, we worked hard because we implemented what we needed to on the defensive roles. I’m happy how they worked on the line and made their one-on-one tackles,” said the 41-year-old.
“We took Seabelo (Senatla) out of Saturday to see if he could recover. He recovered in time and we were happy to see him back playing. I think he’s so fast, but I was impressed with his defence and one-on-one tackles,” said Powell.
Unfortunately next weekend’s Cape Town Sevens will be the last time Senatla will play in this format for a number of months as he returns to fifteens action with Super Rugby side Stormers.
But, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and another star who could be making a return to sevens soon is Toulouse and Springboks flyer Cheslin Kolbe.
The elusive winger admitted last month that he hoped to represent his country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but in doing so, he will have to play in two of the 10 legs of this year’s series.
“We are trying but it all depends on Toulouse, and when they can release him for us. We need to get him for two series anyway if he is to make the Olympics team,” said Powell.
Rosko Specman, Geduld and Senatla will steal most of the limelight from the win over New Zealand, but in Chris Dry, the Blitzbok possess a player of immense quality.
The Cape Town man is one of the veterans of the side, at 31, but his game management, angels of running and general fitness is a joy to watch.
“Chris is one of those guys who could play 90 minutes for you. He didn’t have the greatest of seasons last year cause he was carrying a knee injury but he’s stepped up this year. He’s a character too so that contributes to the system,” Powell said.
England had earlier secured the bronze medal after beating Samoa 19-17 in the third-place playoff.
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