Blitzbokke in top form

AFTER dominating the 2016/17 HSBC World Series in style‚ the Blitzboks had to resort to old fashioned grit on their way to a fourth title in five tournaments in Las Vegas in the early hours of Monday morning.

The Blitzboks beat Fiji 19-12 in the final to secure another 22 log points‚ taking their season’s tally to 107 out of a possible 110 on the standings.

SA now has a 24-point lead over Fiji at the halfway mark of the season and have built a solid foundation to claim their first overall title since 2009.

After four consecutive years of finishing second to Fiji and New Zealand‚ SA have one hand on the trophy with five tournaments to play.

Victory in Las Vegas was also testament to the depth that coach Neil Powell has developed through thousands of hours of talent identification and nurturing at their Stellenbosch base.

In Nevada the Blitzboks went into the tournament without current World Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla who is playing Super Rugby.

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He had contributed 32 tries in the first four tournaments of the season and while his eye for the tryline and clinical finishing was missed‚ the team found other ways to cope.

Similarly Powell’s men were without influential forward Kwagga Smith and lost the services of key playmaker Justin Geduld on day two in Las Vegas.

Yet replacements Dylan Sage and Siviwe Soyizwapi were excellent.

SA just kept on winning‚ even if it was winning ugly.

In their quarterfinal against Australia‚ the Blitzboks needed a late try from Rosko Specman to secure a 17-14 victory.

Against hosts the USA in the semi-final‚ the Blitzboks were rocked back on their heels as the home team ran into a 12-0 lead.

But composure and absolute trust in their systems and each other saw SA record a 20-17 win.

“I am very happy. It was not our most clinical performance of the season at all‚ but we got the result and that is what was important. I would rather win ugly than lose pretty‚” Powell said.

“The guys showed tremendous fighting spirit and always managed to come back and score the tries we needed to win the matches. They kept their focus and played very well in the second half of the matches‚ never giving up.

“I thought Siviwe Soyizwapi and Dylan Sage did very well in taking over the roles of those two stalwarts (Senatla and Smith).

“We are pretty blessed with our depth in the squad. It is good for the players also to realise that the structure is a sound one and as long as they look after it‚ the better the structure will look after them.”

The Blitzboks have won 28 of 30 matches this season‚ and they’ve won four titles in a season for the first time‚ but Powell refuses to get carried away.

“We are in a good position‚ but we need to maintain our form and cannot think that things will just happen for us from now on‚” Powell said.

“We need to stay grounded and start afresh in Vancouver next weekend.”

The draw for the HSBC Vancouver Sevens was announced as well. South Africa will face Chile‚ Kenya and England in Pool A.

The top five teams on the log after the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens are:
1. South Africa 107
2. Fiji 83
3. England 81
4. New Zealand71
5. Australia 52

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