Sevens heads will roll after poor showing
NEWS: Springbok Sevens coach Sandile Ngcobo has blamed injuries amongst other things as the main reason for the American horror show that has left South Africa five points away from fourth-placed Fiji.
Speaking ahead of the Asian leg of the calender, Ngcobo did not mince his words, saying there will be repercussions for those players that did not perform to the expected standards,
And with the Asian leg of the calendar set to get underway in Hong Kong in just over three weeks Ngcobo must be reeling to get things back on track, especially with the 2023 season being an Olympic qualifier and the top four teams will earn automatic qualification for Paris 2024.
The BlitzBoks side went into the North American leg of the campaign needing to further enhance their chances of finishing in the top four.
But sadly the BlitzBoks only managed one win in five matches in Los Angeles last weekend and finished in 13th position at the Canada Sevens early on Monday, which was their worst finish ever in a tournament they won three times in the last five years.
The team also failed to qualify for the quarterfinals from their pool in Vancouver (with fellow Pool B opponents Argentina and France contesting the final, and the South Americans winning the tournament), which saw the Blitzboks dropping to seventh on the World Series log after arriving in LA in second place.
Ngcobo also said they need to stop the rot and fast, as they are due to depart to Hong Kong for the next tournament in only three weeks.
“When we get back to the training field, our first focus will be to perform again,” said Ngcobo.
“Winning is a habit and I suppose losing could become one too if you don’t get out of that hole. We have been spiralling downwards at certain moments and that is bad for us.
“There were some good moments, and we did create good opportunities, but then we could not capitalise on them.”
The lack of attacking thrust was evident on this trip, with the BlitzBoks only scoring six tries in Los Angeles while they were held scoreless against Argentina in their pool match in Vancouver.
“We are struggling with so many of our playmakers not available due to injury – we are currently playing with our number eight and nine players in those positions – which has a big influence on our attack,” lamented Ngcobo.
The Blitzboks are currently without the services of Selvyn Davids, Ronald Brown, Dewald Human, Justin Geduld, Shaun Williams and Jaiden Baron, all of whom are crucial playmakers.
“We will be analysing what and who went wrong and why and act accordingly,” said the coach.
“It starts with management, and I will be in the front line as it starts with me. Could we have done something different during the tournament strategically, from a substitution point of view, from a preparation point of view, things like that.”
Ngcobo said there will also be repercussions for players who did not play to the team’s standards: “We place a high premium on the setting and maintaining of standards and there will be consequences as we are now tarnishing the good work we have done earlier in the season.”
The BlitzBoks will face Ireland, New Zealand and Kenya in their pool at the Hong Kong Sevens, which kicks off on March 31.
“We will be looking for reinforcements from a player perspective and we should have some of our playmakers like Shaun Williams and Jaiden Baron back for that tournament,” said Ngcobo.
“It is a short turnaround, as we leave for Hong Kong in three weeks already, but that is the same for all the teams. We will have to work very hard on the field to fix this.”
On Sunday, the Blitzboks outplayed Canada 31-14 in the semi-final for 13th place and then struggled past Japan 17-5 in the 13th place final, having beaten them 40-12 in their pool match on Friday.
World Rugby Sevens Series standings after seven tournaments:
1. New Zealand 120
2. Argentina 108
3. France 95
4. Fiji 94
5. Australia 94
6. Samoa 89
7. South Africa 89
8. Ireland 83
9. USA 81
10. Great Britain 57