South Africa lost 12-5 to Australia in their final pool match of the Olympic Sevens in Rio on Wednesday, writes GARY LEMKE.
Perhaps it was the weather, with conditions at the Deodoro Stadium markedly different to the opening day, which was played in blazing sunshine, and South Africa opened their campaign with two whitewash wins.
Under heavy skies on a grey day, South Africa’s play matched the weather as they slumped to a seven-point defeat to Australia in Pool B, but the good news is that Neil Powell’s men still topped the pool and qualified for the quarter-finals later in the day. All of South Africa, France (who came second) and Australia lost one of their three matches.
Powell had said that his team pride themselves on their defence and he was a satisfied coach after shutting out Spain (24-0) and France (26-0) on the opening day in 28°C temperatures.
Yet, against Australia, the tournament’s second favourites were lethargic. In fact, it’s not exaggerating to say that in a forgettable first half they rarely got their hands on the ball and didn’t get the faintest sniffs of the Australian red zone, let alone look like scoring.
South Africa made plenty mistakes when handling the ball, conceding a scrum penalty at the lineout for a skew throw-in and being penalised. There were two advantage penalties against them when Australia opened the scoring, midway through the first half, through Jesse Parahi, with the try converted.
Although South Africa, who were doing the bulk of the defending, were typically robust in the tackle areas, they were disjointed and looked as rusty as they were expected to be against Spain in their first match of the competition.
The skew lineout throw led to the Australian scrum which led to the try, scored by Tom Cusack and it was 12-0 at the whistle.
The second half brought more of the same – more errors and stop-start moves – and Australia were comfortable to hold their line and snuff out any danger.
Finally, South Africa put together their first – and only – series of phases and they spread play first from left to right, then back and then back to the right and a good hand-off by Juan de Jongh helped free up Seabelo Senatla who crossed over on the right, but Cheslin Kolbe missed the conversion.
Still, with 2:20 minutes remaining, South Africa were back in it. However, their indecision was spotlighted when they were awarded a penalty in their own half and with time running out. Fully 20 precious seconds elapsed as they first thought of kicking for a long touch or running the ball. They eventually took the tap but it amounted to nothing.
Perhaps fittingly, it was another penalty against South Africa after the hooter which gave Australia the chance to boot the ball into the stands for the win.
Blitzboks Olympic fixtures and results (SA times):
Beat Spain 24-0
Beat France 26-0
Lost to Australia 5-12
Start of playoffs (21:00)
Photo: Philppe Lopez/AFP Photo