The Springbok Sevens team maintained their World Rugby Sevens Series lead on Sunday as their youthful squad claimed third place at the Hong Kong Sevens.
The Blitzboks side, which fielded five debutants at the iconic event, won 26-7 against New Zealand to claim bronze, with Fiji securing their fourth title after beating Kenya.
Their win reduced the gap between the Blitzboks and Fiji in the World Series to three points, but Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell will be delighted with the effort delivered by the squad, guided by stand-in coach, Marius Schoeman, at the tournament.
Powell is in the Gold Coast with ten senior players, where they are preparing for the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens next weekend.
“It was such a proud performance by this young group of players,” said Schoeman. “The guys showed so much courage, and South Africa can be very proud of their effort.
“The real credit must go to the Sevens system back home though. Our senior squad’s staff, the SA Rugby Sevens Academy and even our women’s group all work together. So credit should go to the players here and the system in general, where a lot of backroom staff also contributed immensely.”
The stand-in coach applauded the third place effort.
“We came so close in our Semi-final against Fiji, and the guys responded in such brilliant fashion to bounce back against New Zealand to claim third place.”
Blitzboks captain in Hong Kong, Dewald Human, described his team’s effort as courageous.
“The guys showed what they are capable of out there,” said Human.
“We managed five wins over teams that play in the World Series, and our young group showed they belong on that stage as well. It is nice to do it in Hong Kong, which is such an iconic event.”
One of the Blitzboks’ debutants Rhyno Smith said he felt honoured to be part of the set-up since joining the Academy in January.
“You are not only becoming a better player, but a better person. It was such an honour to be part of our effort this week,” Smith said.
The Blitzboks, without the services of injured forward Ryan Oosthuizen, tore into Fiji to take a 19-5 halftime lead.
Selvyn Davids – who was named Player of the Tournament at the conclusion of the event, and made the customary Dream Team – was in fine form, scoring three tries against the defending Hong Kong champions.
Fiji, however, fought back strongly in the second half and took a 26-19 lead, but a final push from South Africa saw them score through Muller du Plessis.
The final conversion went wide, which allowed the South-Sea side to celebrate.
In their opening match of the day, the Springbok Sevens team moved into the final four by beating Spain 38-5.
Du Plessis scored a hat-trick of tries against the Spanish, as he touched down in the 2nd, 7th and 9th minute of the match.
Davids and Human dotted down as well, as South Africa scored early before conceding a yellow card, which Spain capitalised on.
After that though, there was only one team keeping the scoresheet busy.