Triumphant Blitzboks back in South Africa as HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions
SA Rugby President, Mr Mark Alexander, on Tuesday congratulated the Springbok Sevens squad on winning the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the second consecutive season.
The record-breaking Blitzbok team of Neil Powell landed in Cape Town on Tuesday with the World Series trophy after the clinched the series in dramatic fashion in Paris on Sunday.
“This was an exceptional performance by our squad, who refused to stop believing and kept on fighting, literally until the very last match of the series,” said Mr Alexander.
“We are immensely proud of them and South Africa should be too. The Blitzboks are a leading light in team culture based on respect, humility and shows the country that there is strength in diversity.
“They have been true ambassadors for the country and again represented SA Rugby on the world stage with distinction and grace. Even when injuries robbed them of experienced players, Neil Powell and his management backed their structures and gave younger players a chance to show their worth.
“This is a true reward for our sevens programme and I want to congratulate all involved in this record-breaking effort.”
The back-to-back series victories were a first for the Springbok Sevens. It was also the third time the Blitzboks had won the World Series, after they were also crowned champions for the first time in the 2008/09 season.
The Blitzboks clinched the World Series on Sunday when they successfully defended their HSBC Paris Sevens crown to cap a year highlighted by the team’s consistency and excellence.
South Africa won the Dubai and Paris legs of the 10-tournament series and finished in the top four in the remaining eight, played in iconic cities all over the world. They were runners up in Sydney, Hamilton and London, won bronze in Cape Town, Vancouver and Hong Kong and placed fourth in Las Vegas and Singapore.
The Blitzboks edged Olympic gold medallists, Fiji, by two points on the final standings, finishing on 182 points topping the log. Fiji (180) and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal winners, New Zealand (150) also made the podium.
Powell said they felt graced and blessed by the win: “This was such a memorable series. We feel for Fiji, who came charging and overhauled us with three tournaments to go, only to come up short in Paris, but that is sport for you.
“We kept the focus on ourselves and what we wanted to achieve as a squad and a system. We were graced and blessed as it worked out for us in the end.”
Powell was particularly pleased in expanding the player base and used 28 players during the season – a busy one for Sevens Rugby with the Commonwealth Games, World Series and Rugby World Cup Sevens on the calender.
“We had this plan because of the three big events this year and realised that player management would be key,” said Powell.
“Unfortunately, we let ourselves down at the Commonwealth Games where we finished fourth, so winning the series was a welcome reward. We still have the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July, so after a short break, we will start preparing for that.”
The coach confirmed that leading points’ scorer, Cecil Afrika, has been ruled out of their July trip to the USA, due to a serious hamstring injury sustained in London. Kyle Brown, who injured his knee in Singapore, was also ruled out of next month’s showpiece.
The Springbok Sevens squad that represented South Africa in the 2017/18 HSBSC World Rugby Sevens Series: Philip Snyman (captain), Cecil Afrika, Werner Kok, Seabelo Senatla, Branco du Preez, Kwagga Smith, Rosko Specman, Kyle Brown, Ruhan Nel, Dylan Sage, Chris Dry, Justin Geduld, Tim Agaba, Sandile Ngcobo, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ryan Oosthuizen, Dewald Human, Sikhumbuzo Notshe*, Stedman Gans, Zain Davids Marco Labuschagne, Muller du Plessis*, Heino Bezuidenhout*, James Murphy*, Mfundo Ndhlovu*, Rhyno Smith*, Mosolwa Mafuma*.