Olympic Sevens: Big guns advance to quarterfinals
DAY ONE WRAP: Wins over Ireland and Kenya pushed South Africa to the top of Pool C at the Rugby Sevens tournament at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on Monday.
Team South Africa’s Blitzboks started the tournament impressively with a five-try romp over Ireland in their opening match in Tokyo Stadium for a 33-14 victory, but they had to trust their defensive system to subdue Kenya 14-5 in their second match.
Having already secured their places in the quarterfinals, the BlitzBoks will face USA to determine who will top their pool on Tuesday, before the quarterfinals will take place later in the day. Fiji, Great Britain and New Zealand have also guaranteed their places in Tuesday’s quarterfinals by securing victories in both their matches on the opening day in Tokyo.
Two early tries, by Selvyn Davids and Siviwe Soyizwapi, helped the men in green and gold to jump into a 14-0 lead against Kenya, but the East African side pulled one back via Collins Injera just before the break to see the South Africans go into the break leading by 14-5.
Where Davids’ try was more down to a proper team effort, Soyizwapi’s five-pointer was worth a replay as he bounced off three defenders on his way to his first try at the Olympics.
The second half became a physical affair, with Kenya having most of the possession, but a number of crucial tackles and turnovers prevented them from crossing the South African line again.
The BlitzBok bench proved valuable in this regard, with Sako Makata making two crucial stops for his team.
Earlier on Monday, South Africa scored five tries to beat Ireland 33-14 and kick off their Pool C campaign with a solid performance.
The BlitzBoks scored two first-half tries for a 14-7 lead at the break and added another three in the second for a strong start to their campaign.
Zain Davids opened the scoring try for the BlitzBoks before Visser added a second try with less than six minutes gone. At this stage, the South African defence had Ireland under pressure, but Gavin Mullin got Ireland on the board before the break.
However, it was South Africa who struck first in the second half as Justin Geduld rose highest to claim a cross-field kick and dot down.
The try was just reward for Geduld, who kicked deep from inside his 22 and thanks to a good chase, the ball was eventually recycled, with Geduld outjumping the Irish defence.
Terry Kennedy grabbed his first Olympic try to give Ireland hope of a comeback, but the BlitzBoks made sure of victory with an expertly taken try by Chris Dry, in the same corner where Geduld had scored.
That proved to be a happy spot for South Africa, with a late try from Stedman Gans in the same corner. Selvyn Davids converted four out of five tries.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) July 26, 2021
*The second day of the Men’s Sevens tournament at the Tokyo Olympic Games will feature a repeat of the Rio 2016 gold medal match as Fiji and Great Britain go head to head for top spot in Pool B.
Fiji famously won the final five years ago 43-7, to ensure the country’s first-ever Olympic medal was gold, and will want to put on a show again when the teams meet.
Both sides qualified for the quarterfinals unbeaten with defeats of Canada and Japan on day one, and a third success of the Games would ensure the victorious team heads into the last eight as Pool B winners.
Great Britain will have their work cut out at Tokyo Stadium on Tuesday, however. Fiji have won seven of their previous 10 World Rugby Sevens Series matches against England, who provide nine of Tony Roques’ 13-player squad.
The remaining four players represent Scotland on the World Series, who have not fared any better against Gareth Baber’s side, losing eight of their last 10 meetings.
Pool B rivals Japan and Canada will get day two underway at Tokyo Stadium, and both teams still have plenty to play for.
The two third-placed teams with the best pool stage records will earn their place in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, meaning a victory for either team could keep their medal hopes alive.
Argentina and Australia target quarterfinal
Argentina take on the Republic of Korea in Pool A, as they attempt to book their own ticket to the quarterfinals.
The South Americans, who narrowly missed out on a semifinal place in Rio five years ago, began their Tokyo 2020 campaign with a confident 29-19 defeat of Australia.
New Zealand proved too strong for them in their second match of day one, but a win against the Koreans, who lost both of their matches on Monday, would be enough to take them through.
Rugby World Cup Sevens and World Series holders New Zealand made sure of their progress to the quarterfinals on day one, and can wrap up top spot in Pool A with victory against Australia.
Following their opening loss against Argentina, however, Australia must beat their rivals to be sure of their own place in the knockout stage. Defeat could still take the Australians through on points difference.
Australia coach Tim Walsh is chasing a historic double having led the nation’s women to gold in Rio, but his side beat the All Blacks Sevens just once in eight meetings across the recent Trans-Tasman Sevens and Oceania Sevens tournaments.
SA Rugby and World Rugby