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‘Just how rugby works’: South Africa bow out of Grand Final before semis

By Finn Morton
South Africa huddle together before a match at the SVNS Series Grand Final in Madrid. Picture: World Rugby.

It was a SVNS Series campaign that started with so much promise for South Africa. The Blitzboks got the better of Argentina in the Dubai decider back in December which put them at the top of the standings for at least one week.

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South Africa looked to replicate those early-season heroics in front of a vibrant crowd in Cape Town but they fell well short in the quarter-finals. In the other five regular season events, the Blitzboks struggled for consistency against the world’s best teams.

But after qualifying for the SVNS Series Grand Final in Madrid as one of the top eight men’s teams in the regular season, there was hope they might compete for gold at the winner-takes-all event. They fought valiantly once again but fell short of their goal.

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The Blitzboks have missed the semi-finals after failing to win any of their three pool matches. It’s a frustrating outcome considering they came within one error of beating Ireland on Friday, but Gavin Mullin snatched it with an 18th-minute match-winning try.

Moses Leo scored a try inside the final minute to deliver a tense win for New Zealand over the South Africa on day two, and then, finally, the Blitzboks were beaten by Fiji.

As the players walked down the tunnel, you could see how disappointed they were. Actually, let’s take that further – you could feel it. The playing group huddled together for a talk and a prayer before making their way towards the changerooms.

“The weekend didn’t go our way. We had two great games where the effort was there, but just the last game it felt like we weren’t in the moment,” captain Selvyn Davids told RugbyPass.

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“Fiji came out guns blazing. We gave them the ball too easily. I think if we just kept our ball it would have been a different ball game, but credit to Fiji, they came out and just played us off the park.

“We started off well in Dubai, winning the tournament, but it’s quite disappointing how we went from there. I think we just went down.

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“Then, after a few tournaments, we came up again, our standard of playing just went up a little bit but I think our consistency was the main problem.

“We played two great games, maybe three great games, and then in the quarter-finals we just seemed to lack a bit of effort or concentration. Disappointing season for us but that’s just how rugby works.”

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South Africa are one of the only SVNS Series sides yet to qualify for the Paris Olympics as well. The Blitzboks will have one more opportunity to book their ticket to France’s capital, but they’ll come up against tough and desperate opposition in Monaco.

Stade Louis II will host the final Olympic Games repechage event from June 21 to 23. Great Britain, Spain and Canada are the other three core status teams from the 2023/24 season looking to beat South Africa in the race for the Games.

But that event gives the Blitzboks hope. While the SVNS Series is over for another season, there’s still plenty to work towards over the next few weeks.

“The qualifier is important to us. I think we need to go back to the drawing board and when we go to the qualifiers we need to be positive and just start everything over.

“I think if we go there with a negative mindset we’re going to do what we did the whole season and come up short, and we can’t afford that.

“Everyone wants to play in the Olympics and everyone wants to play in the biggest sporting event in the world so for us, [it’s important] to just put this behind us.

“We still have a day tomorrow, so we need to come back positive and just pick up our heads and put in the effort again.”

Catch all of the SVNS Madrid action live and free on RugbyPass TV. To watch the Grand Final, register HERE.

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1 Comment
F
Flankly 21 days ago

Blitzboks have forgotten how to tackle.

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