The Springbok Sevens team suffered a disappointing 21-5 defeat against Ireland in the final of the Athlete's Factory International 7s in Chester on Saturday after dominant performances in their opening five matches of the tournament.
The South Africans produced some stunning play on attack on Friday and Saturday, scoring at will, but when the Irish kept possession and attacked with intent in the final, some cracks appeared in the Blitzboks’ defence.
Ireland conceded an early try as Ruhan Nel broke through, before responding with a converted try just before the break, and then again twice in quick succession in the second half. But as hard as they tried, the Blitzboks could not muster another telling attack and conceded defeat.
In all, they scored 30 tries en route to the final in their wins against the Rambling Jesters, Hong Kong, England, Spain and France respectively, while they conceded only one. But this was undone by the effort against Ireland.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was pleased with his team’s effort, despite the result in the final.
“This was exactly what we wanted and needed,” said Powell. “We often speak about a tournament not being done until after your final game, and that was again the case today. We did some good things in five matches and then made some mistakes in the sixth match, but it was good for the guys to be reminded about that.
“For the players coming back from the 15-a-side code, like Seabelo (Senatla), Rosko (Specman) and Ruhan (Nel) it was crucial to get as much game time as possible, and from that perspective, it was great. They also needed to see how the game has progressed since they last played.”
The coach will travel back to Cape Town on Sunday a happy man.
“We were tested in many ways,” said Powell. “Friday turned out to be very wet, but at least the last two games today (Saturday) were played in decent weather.
“That meant that we had to adapt to the conditions, and we did that well.”
Powell felt that the positives of the trip far outweighed the negatives, which included the inevitable effect of injuries.
Powell lost Dylan Sage in the first match of the tournament to concussion and only had ten fit players for the final, but he said it had no impact on their final effort.
“It was a pity Dylan could not get the same game time as the rest of the guys, but that is rugby,” Powell said. “We did pick up some niggles, but those are part of any tournament.”
After three strong showings on Friday, South Africa signaled their intent early on Saturday in their final group B match against Spain, running the European side ragged, with five well taken tries.
Seabelo Senatla got three of those and showed the Chester crowd his clinical finishing ability, but it was the Selvyn Davids show as the playmaker had a hand in most of the tries.
It was another Davids, Zain, who laid down the gauntlet against France in their semi-final clash later in the afternoon. Two power runs by the forward resulted in his two tries, while Senatla also added two more to his tournament tally.
The French scored a try just before halftime, but the Blitzboks were always cruising. Rosko Specman ended a good showing by his team with a late try as he gathered a Justin Geduld grubber to score.
On Friday, the Springbok Sevens team outplayed the Rambling Jesters 46-0, Hong Kong 31-0 and England 31-5.
Spain 36-0 (HT 19-0)
Tries: Muller du Plessis, Seabelo Senatla (3), Christi Grobbelaar, JC Pretorius. Conversions: Selvyn Davids (3).
France 29-5 (HT 17-5)
Tries: Zain Davids (2), Seabelo Senatla (2), Rosko Specman. Conversions: Justin Geduld, Rosko Specman
Ireland 5-21 (HT 5-7)
Try: Ruhan Nel
Royal Jesters 46-0 (HT 22-0)
Tries: Ryan Oosthuizen, Seabelo Senatla (3), Chris Dry, Rosko Specman, Muller du Plessis (2). Conversions: Specman, Selvyn Davids (2).
Hong Kong 31-0 (HT 19-0)
Tries: Rosko Specman, Muller du Plessis, Christi Grobbelaar, JC Pretorius, Ryan Oosthuizen. Conversions: Specman, Justin Geduld, Selvyn Davids.
England 31-5 (HT 7-5)
Tries: Rosko Specman (2), Seabelo Senatla, Muller du Plessis, Justin Geduld. Conversions: Justin Geduld, Selvyn Davids (2)