South Africa's Sevens Series title in jeopardy after early LA exit
Blitzboks head coach Neil Powell has hammered his side’s defensive display after they were comfortably knocked out of the HSBC LA Sevens, jeopardising their World Series title credentials.
South Africa still top the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series leaderboard, but there are now three other nations that could usurp the reigning champions.
Defeats to the USA and New Zealand in pool B meant South Africa faced an early exit in LA and Powell did not pull his punches when assessing the effort and continuity his team displayed.
“We conceded way more tries than usual and that was very disappointing,” said Powell. “For me, the defensive effort from the players was too individualistic and we did not trust the system. When we play as a unit, it brings us success and that did not happen out there.
“It was not always due to a lack of trying, some guys really did their best out there, but rather players wanting to do things on their own. That is not what we stand for as a team, hence the disappointment.”
South Africa won the 2021 instalment of the HSBC World Series, albeit in a smaller format where widespread Covid disruption meant only two of ten competitions were played. The holders will now have a nervous wait to see if they have done enough to claim a fifth World Series title.
Fate is very much out of their hands, with Australia, Argentina and Fiji all in the running to take the title if they win gold in LA.
Powell is not expecting the stars to align for his team who now have to face Wales in the ninth-place play-off.
“We will have to assess where we stand and what we want out of the day. We have Dewald Human and Zain Davids out already, so will need to look toward the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town in two weeks’ time and start to manage some of our key players accordingly.”
“We will give it our best shot against Wales and see where we are in relation to the World Series table and then plan from there.”
Australia and Argentina would both make history with a win in LA. Neither have won the World Series before but stand a chance of lifting that title for the very first time.
Australia are currently second in the overall standings, two points adrift of South Africa, and will clinch the Series if they reach the final in LA, or finish third, provided Argentina do not win gold.
If they do so, they will follow in the footsteps of Australia women who dominated the sevens circuit and took home the Series title back in May.
Rivals Argentina sit in third, six points off South Africa, and can only claim a maiden title if they win gold in LA and Australia do not reach the final.
As it stands, four-time winners Fiji are fourth and still have an outside chance of winning if they take gold in LA and Australia finish no higher than fourth.
If any of these eventualities come to fruition, and South Africa lose their crown, they will not have long to wait for a chance to redeem themselves, with the Sevens Rugby World Cup starting on the 9th September in Cape Town.
Before they turn their attention to a home World Cup, the Blitzboks will be closely watching the LA quarter finals, as Australia face Kenya, Fiji take on hosts USA, Argentina lock horns with Samoa and New Zealand play Ireland.
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