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Rugby | Sevens

Collins Injera © Gallo Images

Bok Sevens end with a whimper

The Springbok Sevens campaign at the Wellington Sevens ended with a whimper as they were unceremoniously dumped out of both the Cup and Plate competitions at the Westpac Stadium.

The Blitzbokke ended a weekend they would rather forget as they paid the ultimate price for not having a kicker and lost their Cup quarterfinal 21-20 to rising Sevens stars Kenya, having outscored them four tries to three.

They then had to endure a one-sided whipping at the hands of Australia, losing 28-12 in a game they were never in, and one which exposed their defensive frailties.

But it wasn’t surprising given the poor form the team have displayed on the weekend, winning just one of their five games in the tournament and a massive improvement will be needed when they get to the next leg of the HSBC World Series in Las Vegas.

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For instance, while conversions have always been treated as a necessary evil in Sevens, the Blitzbokke failed to convert one try in four of their six games and, against Kenya, one simple conversion would have given them victory.

Against Australia, they only had success when Paul Delport put one over to make the score look respectable.

Yet, even though the kicking was a concern, there was little of the defensive resolve shown in their only victory of the weekend – the 21-0 win over Wales on Friday – when they came to the knockout stages of the competition.

The Blitzbokke lumbered and struggled to find their rhythm on the attack and their defence held only so long before the Kenyan and Australian speedsters found their space.

And even though this wasn’t their worst tournament this year – Dubai has that honour – some serious questions need to be asked about the side, who train fulltime at the wonderful Stellenbosch Academy and work unbelievably hard.

Whether it is a case of the players not being up to the international standard – which has for all accounts improved significantly since Sevens was announced as an Olympic sport – or whether coach Paul Treu has hit a brick wall in taking the team forward, some uncomfortable questions need to be asked.

Statistics from the International Rugby Board show the Blitzbokke to be leading in several areas of the game, including turnovers and breakdowns, something which begs the question on how the players manage to make such massive mistakes at such crucial times.

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Unfortunately while Saru do maintain a fulltime squad, the provincial obsession with keeping players on ice has forced the Blitzbokke to look further and further down the pecking order for players. A prime example over the past year has been players such as Sibusiso Sithole and Sampie Mastriet – both wanted by Sevens but refused by their provinces, and both who had almost no playing time in 2012 because of this standoff.

As for Treu, he has been the mastermind behind South Africa’s only World Series win, and is seen as a shrewd mind in Sevens circles. But after eight years with the team, there is a sense that he needs a new challenge, and that Sevens needs a breath of fresh air.

Treu’s intellectual capital would fall nicely into Rassie Erasmus’s mobile coaching unit, for instance, or as an assistant to one of the Super Rugby teams.

But as this weekend showed, something is not right in Bok Sevens rugby at the moment. Plastering over the cracks will not solve anything.

The results are enough proof of that.


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