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Six-man Blitzboks survive Irish scare to claim statement win in Hong Kong

By Finn Morton
Ryan Oosthuizen of South Africa looks on during the 2024 Perth SVNS men's quarter final match between Fiji and South Africa at HBF Park on January 27, 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

South Africa have a rich history on the now-called SVNS Series but it’s safe to say this season hasn’t quite gone to plan. As one of five nations to have claimed the overall men’s title in the history of the circuit, the Blitzboks are a team that sets the bar high.

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The Blitzboks shot out of the blocks with Cup final glory in the 2023/24 season’s opening stop out in the desert for the Dubai Sevens but they’ve been unable to replicate those heroics at the following four events to date.

After failing to make the Cup quarter-finals in both Vancouver and Los Angeles, the South Africans “had a couple of hard chats” before turning their focus to the prestigious swansong event at Hong Kong Stadium.

It seems those conversations have had an impact. South Africa kicked off their quest for Cup final glory at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with a statement win over Series heavyweights Ireland on Friday morning.

Ryan Oosthuizen scored South Africa’s fourth unanswered try as they ran up a commanding 22-nil lead. But the match was far from over with a red card to Justin Geduld turning the Pool C fixture on its head.

South Africa won, but only just. Ireland scored three tries on the bounce but time wasn’t on their side as the Blitzboks held on for a tense 22-17 win.

“We all know that’s not the standards, the previous tournaments, that’s not the standard of the Blitzboks teams,” Oosthuizen told RugbyPass.

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“We had a couple of hard chats to one another. I think we wanted to put pride back in the jersey and definitely our first half, it looked like the old 2019/2020 Blitzbokke team.

“Unfortunately in the second half, we let them come back but we know what our standards are and we’re super pleased with that first half.

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“We got a call ‘bingo.’ That just means keep the ball, it means don’t let the ball go,” he added when asked about the final play.

“Luckily that last kick-off I tapped the ball and one of our players got it and he knocked it… and that was the end of the game.

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“A bit nervous, like I said we gave them a bit of hope and giving teams hope is not good.

“I think we’re fortunate with that second half but we’re going to build off that first half.”

It’s not like the South Africans needed any extra motivation going into this event, but this weekend’s event in Hong Kong China presents them with an opportunity to join a famous list of champions.

The Blitzboks have “never won here.” But with the world-famous event set to move on from Hong Kong Stadium from next year – with this being the 30th year at the venue – there’s no better time for them to break that drought at the spiritual home of the sport.

“It’s the only tournament in all 10 tournaments, in previous years, that we’ve never won. That’s always at the back of our minds,” Oosthuizen explained.

“I think that first half we definitely showed that we’re contenders. I mean there are quality sides (like) Argentina, Fiji, New Zealand.

“Any team can beat any team. We just saw Spain beat Samoa. I think for us it’s just all focus on the next game… and then we’ll take it from there.”

South Africa’s statement victory over the SVNS Series’ second-placed side is only the beginning. The Blitzboks will also face Spain and Samoa in pool play as they chase a return to the knockout rounds.

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