Blitzboks comeback victory at Singapore Sevens, as Olympic Qualification heats up

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Blitzboks comeback victory at Singapore Sevens
SINGAPORE - APRIL 14: Winner South African players celebrate at teh victory ceremony after the Cup final between South Africa and Fiji on day two of the HSBC Rugby Sevens Singapore at the National Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Singapore. (Photo by Paul Miller/Getty Images for Singapore Sports Hub)

South Africa came from 19-0 down in the first half of the Cup Final, to shut off Fiji in the crucial a penalty goal, to win 19-20. A comeback victory for the Blitzbok, who had fallen behind in the 2018/19 series, but who rebounded proudly here at the HSBC Singapore Sevens.

It rounded off another surprising weekend at the Singapore Sevens, known in the World Series for its ‘unpredictability’. That was because Fiji and England lost two games in Pool play yet they both played in the Cup Quarterfinals, finishing second and third respectively.

The emotional display above showed how dearly head coach Neil Powell and the Blitzbok players ‘wanted this victory’. It propels them back into contention for Tokyo 2020 [Olympic Qualification for the top four ranked teams].

A win to that also meant Fiji again could not complete back-to-back tournament wins, after taking out the Hong Kong event, a week earlier.

Blitzboks comeback victory at Singapore Sevens

With the completion of the HSBC Singapore Sevens, only three points separate the series leaders USA and Fiji, with two rounds left to play. As well as the title, the top four sides will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games tournament in 2020.

To date, Fiji and USA have cemented their spots but how the top four qualifiers are ranked will only be known as the season end. New Zealand, England, and South Africa could each take up the remaining spots. Topping the Series standings will give the winner a more favorable Pool draw in Tokyo.

However, a battle for survival is being waged both at the top and at the bottom of the table.

Kenya, Wales and Japan are all hoping to survive for another season. Either of these teams faces relegation and as such, will be replaced by the HSBC World Sevens Series Qualifiers winner Ireland next season.

These last two rounds will be important for them, as much as the battle for the title, at the top of the table. Maybe that is why the South African players were so elated, and how every side puts so much effort into every minute, of every match.

South Africa look toward Olympic Qualification

South Africa had a great tournament, going through the tournament unbeaten. They boosted Olympic Qualification hopes, as well as denying the redemption of a Fijian team not entirely on-form. This fact cannot be lost, as Fiji had incredibly lost to Scotland and the Blitzboks, yet amazingly scrapped through to the playoffs on points differential.

South Africa had some better overall play. Big on defence yet still able to throw in some amazing plays, to ‘take out’ series leaders the United States.

Another side who had taken the ‘hard road’ to the playoffs, England would ultimately gain a confidence-boosting win over Team USA. Settling for bronze, after they succumb to the all-powerful Fijians in the semis – though Fiji didn’t dominate, as they had in Hong Kong.

Samoa continued to gain valuable momentum, with their 19-17 victory over the New Zealand, that earned them fifth place. Manu Samoa has risen proudly, making fantastic improvements and now sit in sixth place on the World Series ladder. What a leap from last year (where they ended in tenth place).

Last weeks finalists France, took home the Challenge Trophy after overcoming Scotland 22-19. Not a disastrous result, as they still showed much confidence, as have Scotland. the level of competition is fierce – only a fraction off your game, can be the difference. Fiji only just scraped through themselves, so France and Scotland should still travel to familiar territory [London and Paris] heads held high.

Kenya settled for thirteenth place defeating the Spanish side, 21-5.

Singapore Sevens accolades

Singapore Sevens ‘Dream Team’

The Blitzboks had two players recognized, in Werner Kok and Justin Geduld. Fijian stars Josua Vakuranabili, Meli Derenalagi, Aminiasi Tuimaba, and the bright-spark, Vilimoni Botitu. Scottish playmaker Max McFarland adds his stamp to the VIP list, in a nod to his contribution.

‘The Last Word’ on the Singapore Sevens

Two loses in Pool play….. yet they still managed to reach the Final. It could be luck but, the Fijian boys are still developing their mental toughness. Once harnessed, it will be hard to beat them.

Talking of comebacks, the English lost two games on Day One too. But they still reached the semis and finished a meritorious third. They overpowered the undefeated Aussies in the Cup quarterfinals, which shows they are still a force [in that nations last Sevens Series, before resuming as Great Britain in 2020].

What those two results confirm is if you don’t back up from Day One, you will surely falter; like the Kiwis and Aussies did. The ever-evolving sevens game and its unpredictability is the very thing that brings out the spectators year-after-year. It brings new fans to the sport, and is why 7s will be represented at the 2020 Olympics.

The competition will only get better and tougher over the next two rounds; beginning with the London Sevens on May 25. Full of surprises, that unpredictability factor, plus the all-out action, will never let fans slumber (even for those of us halfway around the rugby globe).

The men will take a deserved rest, as the spotlight falls on the Women’s Sevens Series. Join us this weekend for the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens, as our women resume their own world series action.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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