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Friday, December 9, 2022

Blitzboks dazzle on attack, but must shore up defence for Ireland quarter-final

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Cape Town — It was a bit of a subdued start to the Rugby Cup Sevens at the Cape Town Stadium, but as expected, the place started to pump when the Blitzboks entered the arena for the last match of day one.

The Springbok Sevens side blew Chile away at the start of the match with three quick tries, but then allowed the South Americans back into the game just before half time.

And it is that middle period of the game that will be worrying coach Neil Powell ahead of Saturday night’s Championship quarter-final against Ireland at 10.33pm (why would you schedule a Blitzboks game so late? Hopefully the spectators can still stay awake until then!)

The South Africans were superb in their execution in the opening stages, where they were able to find holes up the middle and out wide to stretch the Chilean defence.

That created space close to the touchline, and the home team exploited that in classy fashion with well-weighted cross-kicks by Ronald Brown, Muller du Plessis and a brilliant grubber from Selvyn Davids.

But Chile found their rhythm eventually, and they decided to take on the smaller South Africans in direct fashion. They got their giant ball-carrier Cristobal Game — he could play lock in the 15-man code — to swat off tackles and hand-off Blitzbok players.

Captain Joaquin Huici slipped through as well to score Chile’s only try, and even when Brown added the fourth SA try, the visitors continued with their abrasive approach and got into the Blitzbok 22 a few times.

As the match went on, Powell’s team managed to smother the Chilean ball-carriers in more meaningful fashion, going lower in the tackle as well to stop the runners in their tracks.

But Ireland proved against England in their 17-5 triumph earlier in the day that they will be hard to beat. They led 17-0 and only conceded a try when they received a yellow card late in the second half. So, the Blitzboks can’t afford any defensive lapses against the Irish.

Powell sprung a surprise for the Chile encounter by keeping captain Siviwe Soyizwapi on the bench, along with powerful ball-carrier and defender Impi Visser, with the likes of Brown, Muller du Plessis and Christie Grobbelaar preferred.

But for the Ireland showdown, the Blitzboks coach may have to go back to the more experienced Soyizwapi and Visser, at least to shore up the defence.

Powell will be delighted with the attacking game, though. Angelo Davids kept his width well to provide options for the playmakers on his inside, while Selvyn Davids is just a bundle of energy who makes this Blitzboks team tick.

He has all the skills to make things happen on attack against Ireland, and the agility of Brown and Mfundo Ndhlovu was something to behold.

But it’s no use scoring tries if you are leaking points on the other side. And remember, it’s a knockout tournament, so there are no second chances after Saturday night…

Points scorers

South Africa 32 – Tries: Angelo Davids (2), Sako Makata, Christie Grobbelaar, Ronald Brown, Mfundo Ndhlovu. Conversion: Selvyn Davids (1).

Chile 5 – Try: Joaquin Huici.

@ashfakmohamed

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