The Blitzboks’ final game of Pool A at the Sydney Sevens ended with a blot on their copybook as they went down 15-21 to old rivals England on Saturday, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
After having beaten Japan 32-0 and Kenya 14-17, they’d already qualified for Sunday’s action, as had England.
But there would have been a bad taste in the mouth’s of coach Neil Powell’s men as they definitely didn’t bring their A Game to the stadium.
England slowed things down from the start and World Sevens Series second highest try-scorer, Dan Norton was nearly away early on before flyer Seabelo Senatla helped catch him.
Just over two minutes into the action the Blitzboks were caught sleeping as big Phil Burgess picked up a loose ball with the Blitzboks looking on wide-mouthed expecting the referee to call play back.
Burgess went over under the posts and Tom Mitchell obliged with the conversion.
The Blitzboks then bounced right back. After knocking on they managed to overturn the scrum and Senatla showed why he’s South Africa’s all-time leading try scorer as he beat four defenders to go over for his sixth try of the day.
Justin Geduld missed the conversion as the Blitzboks still trailed by two. After the hooter had gone SA had a penalty and after making good ground down the right, the ball was recycled, Geduld looked up and floated a perfect kick out to Chris Dry on the lefthand touchline and he trotted over for his 78th try in World Series rugby.
The conversion was missed but SA still went into the shed 10-7 to the good.
England then started the second half but the kick went straight into touch. SA elected to run from the re-start and Geduld went all the way down the left channel but again missed the conversion.
That saw the Blitzboks up 15-7 and it stayed that way until midway through the half.
Some brilliant switching of play and dummy running the English then saw Norton going over and again the conversion was added to pull things back to 15-14.
With 1:21 to play it was the Blitzboks who were punished by a tactical kick as substitute James Rodwell went over, the big red-head only having Dylan Sage to beat. Again the conversion was successful and it was 21-15.
In the dying seconds the Blitzboks coughed up a penalty and Mitchell duly kicked into touch, leaving the Blitzboks to rue what could have been.
Perhaps the defeat will make them just that more determined and the fact that their normally watertight defence leaked three tries in one game will motivate even more.
They play the United States in their first game on Sunday.
Picture of Geduld in action in Sydney courtesy of Mark Kolbe/World Rugby
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