Despite gaining automatic qualification to the Rio Olympics next year, the Springbok Sevens team lost their overall HSBC Sevens World Series lead to Fiji in Glasgow on Sunday after only managing to winning the Plate Final of the Scotland Sevens at Scotstoun Stadium.
South Africa, who had a four-point lead over Fiji coming into the penultimate tournament of the series, suffered a 15-0 defeat against the Pacific Island team in the Cup quarter-finals in their first match today.
The defeat pushed them into the Plate section, where wins over Australia (21-12) and Scotland (12-10) resulted in them winning that competition and picking up 13 tournament points.
Fiji went on to win the final to overhaul South Africa and now lead them by five with the last tournament of the 201415 series being played at Twickenham in London this weekend.
New Zealand, who started the tournament nine points adrift of the Springbok Sevens also clawed back that lead and will be going to England three points behind the Blitzboks.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell expressed his disappointment at the Fiji result, but was happy in the way the team responded by beating Australia and Scotland to claim the maximum points available and win the Plate.
‘It was a massive game for us against Fiji and the result did not go our way and that was disappointing. There was a lot in that match and we could not pull it through. We needed to beat them to stay top of the log and unfortunately we could not do that. The guys came back well though and we did well in the remaining two matches,’ Powell said.
‘We managed to beat Australia and also played well against Scotland, especially in that second half of the final, where we had to defend for a long time.’
The coach admitted on the team not having the best of weekends in Scotland. ‘It felt like we could not get out of the blocks on day one. It did not help that we suffered early injuries like losing Philip (Snyman) the day before the tournament and then Cecil (Afrika) yesterday. Against Fiji we could not keep the ball and although we defended well, paid the price.’
Powell warns all is not lost. ‘We are still in it and nothing has changed in our aim to win the overall series. We will have a look where we can improve and work on before London. Our goal here was to stretch the lead against Fiji and we could not do that. Going to London we will have it all to do. We need to get the confidence of the players up so that they can go out and play.’
Powell will have an injury assessment of the squad on Monday and will then make a call on any injury replacements if needed.
The coach congratulated the squad who have qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio with a guaranteed top four finish.
‘It is great to qualify, that was our first and foremost goal for the year and it is a tremendous achievement for us.’
The pools for London have also been announced. South Africa will play in pool D against the USA, France and Portugal.
Fiji will play in pool A with Canada, Argentina and Samoa New Zealand in pool B with Australia, Wales and Japan and England will compete in pool C with Scotland, Kenya and Brazil.
The top five teams after eight tournaments are: 1 Fiji 147, 2 South Africa 142, 3 New Zealand 139, 4 England 117, 5 Australia 101
Source : South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee