The Springboks might not be able to topple the All Blacks but in the sevens format it’s a whole different matter.
Neil Powell’s Blitzboks on Saturday continued their recent dominance over New Zealand to defend their Dubai crown in the World Sevens Series.
Their 24-12 victory was their seventh in eight meetings against the All Blacks.
South Africa pretty much sealed the match in the first half as they mercilessly capitalised on a Joe Ravouvou yellow card following his high tackle on Branco du Preez.
Kwagga Smith, who was named player of the final, made a telling break immediately before captain Philip Snyman dove over from a tap penalty.
By that time the Blitzboks had already been pinning the New Zealanders in their own half with aggressive defence.
As a result, the All Blacks reverted to a kick, which bounced favourably for Du Preez.
Werner Kok drew two defenders and found Seabelo Senatla on the inside.
Smith ensured an important 19-0 halftime lead by charging down another kick from the next kickoff.
Rosko Specman’s yellow for a deliberate knock-down briefly put the New Zealanders back in contention as their patience on attack was rewarded with two tries.
But the Blitzboks regained composure and put a cherry on top with a fine try for Tim Agaba from a set-piece, who showed brute power to barge over.
Blitzboks 24 (19) – Tries: Philip Snyman, Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Tim Agaba. Conversions: Branco du Preez (2).
New Zealand 12 (0) – Tries: Andrew Knewstubb, Scott Curry. Conversion: Knewstubb.
Blitzboks 12 – Fiji 7
Whoever believes sevens rugby is just about fancy running and scoring tries will have they viewpoint shattered if they watch this Blitzboks team.
South Africa were simply relentless with their tackling as they reached the final of the Dubai leg of the World Sevens Series with a tight but also comfortable 12-7 win over Fiji.
The Islanders are known for being notoriously difficult to keep in check and it was a real feather in the Blitzboks’ cap that their opponents simply didn’t look like crossing the whitewash.
They might not always complete all their tackles but coach Powell has developed such an effective defensive system that whenever a tackle might be missed, a player is there to pick up the slack.
Of course, there were some instances of one defender just brilliant pulling up his socks.
Senatla showed blistering pace in forcing Jerry Tuwai into touch when it seemed he was ready to launch for the tryline.
Kok was did well to snuff out Apenisa Cakaubalavu with a solid tackle.
Fiji, after belatedly scoring their first, won the last kickoff back but knocked on after another crunching tackle, meaning they couldn’t snatch a late win.
Blitzboks 12 (12) – Tries: Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla. Conversion: Afrika.
Fiji 7 (0) – Try: Jerry Tuwai. Conversion: Ameroni Nasilasila.
Blitzboks 26 – Samoa 10
The Blitzboks dealt outstandingly with the pressure moments as they cruised into the cup semifinals.
Powell’s charges hardly overworked themselves on the attack as they merely pounced on Samoa’s mistakes.
Senatla once again put South Africa on the path to victory with a brace of tries, which were typically poacher-like.
First, he rounded off on the left side after Afrika smartly intercepted a pass with Samoa on the attack in their own half.
Smith made a smart, diving grab before the ball was sent down the line.
The flyer then scored a try he probably shouldn’t have been allowed to.
While Kok did well to open up play, Senatla was actually marked by two defenders but managed to dodge them twice by stepping right and then left.
It was poor defence.
The fact that they went into a 12-7 halftime lead after completing just six passes to their opponents’ 28 said everything about South Africa’s ability to take their chances.
However, the Blitzboks certainly didn’t have it all their way.
Their tackling was a times suspect as Samoa’s physicality definitely troubled them.
Tomasi Alosio was the creator of both the Islanders’ tries, brilliant handing-off would-be tacklers in those movements.
Joe Perez also broke three tackles in the build-up to the second try, suggesting South Africa will need to mark attackers more consistently later on.
But their class was just too apparent.
Kok claimed a try of his own after he brilliantly released and picked up the ball again immediately after he was tackled.
Ruhan Nel and Kyle Brown vitally held up a tackle following an attacking Samoan line-out before Nel drew various defenders to lay the platform for replacement Tim Agaba’s powerful finish.
Blitzboks 26 (12) – Tries: Seabelo Senatla (2), Werner Kok, Tim Agaba. Conversions: Cecil Afrika (2), Branco du Preez.
Samoa 10 (5) – Tries: Faalemiga Selesele, Alamanda Motuga.