South Africa head coach Neil Powell is delighted the Blitzboks were able to hold off England in the HSBC World Sevens Series London leg to seal their place in the rugby sevens event at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan.
South Africa and England were battling for the fourth and final place in Tokyo. And although the Blitzboks, by their standards, played below pay they did enough to finish seventh while England turned in a disappointing performance at home.
Powell’s team were beaten 21-17 by New Zealand in the play-offs and lost lost 29-22 to Australia in the quarter-finals.
“One of our main aims at the start of the season was to make sure we qualify in the top four in order to get that automatic qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Powell was quoted saying by Sport24. “We ticked that box and we are grateful and pleased with that. It does ease the disappointment of our performances here on the second day a bit.
Thank you for the colourful and warm welcome @Paris7s The defending Paris champions arrived in the French capital Monday afternoon for the final leg of the @WorldRugby7s @CastleFreeSA @FNBSA @ASICS_ZA @ASICSRugby pic.twitter.com/MsrnjvpZv4
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) May 27, 2019
“Our match against Australia was probably our worst all season as we simply didn’t play near to what we are capable of and supposed to. Maybe we had it too easy on the first day. The younger players need to learn that you cannot bank on good performances on day one and then not show up the next.
“We were just not good enough in that match and that was very disappointing.”
Meanwhile, South Africa have been forced to make another change ahead of the Paris Sevens, with Selvyn Davids the latest name that has been forced out of the squad for personal reasons. He will be replaced by the more than capable Dewald Human.
It was a rush for Human to catch his flight from Cape Town International Airport on Monday evening, as he will link up with Mfundo Ndhlovu and Cecil Afrika who have replaced other injured Springbok stars. They will all join up with their teammates in the French capital on Tuesday evening.
While it will be a special weekend for everybody connected with the team, it will be more relief for Afrika. The star was forced off with a bad hamstring injury in London which ended any hopes he had of celebrating a second World Series win with his country.
Afrika was replaced 12 months ago by Human, but the veteran’s route back to the World Series seemed unlikely at that point.
Human had his crowning moment with the team on that fateful afternoon in Paris, where he was the star of the show to lead South Africa to glory past England in the final. If just winning the series wasn’t enough, he was also named as player of the final; something he will undoubtedly have aspirations to do again this year.
The beautiful irony means that both of these stars can now play together in this year’s final leg, as they look to cap their memorable qualification to next year’s Olympic Games in style.
It won’t be an easy feat as they have been drawn in the competitive Pool B alongside relegation-threatened Kenya, as well as Wales and Australia. They will open against the Welsh before ending the day against Kenya and Australia.
Main photo: Springboks Rugby