The Blitzboks can never be accused of choking‚ especially in the light of the way they won the World Series for a third time earlier this year.
But their semi-final elimination against England at the World Cup in San Francisco on Sunday night was an uncharacteristically poor performance.
Typically the Blitzboks bounced back from their 29-7 loss to England‚ which denied them a place in the World Cup final for the first time since 1997‚ with a stirring bronze medal win over Fiji.
The 24-19 victory saw the Blitzboks back to their best after a badly timed slump against England.
The quest for World Cup glory though‚ will have to wait for another four years.
New Zealand‚ as they often do in the big tournaments‚ won the Melrose Cup 33-12 against England‚ to add their Commonwealth Games gold medal from earlier this year.
But for SA it was a case of what might have been. Neil Powell’s team went into the semi-final high on confidence after two resounding wins over Ireland (45-7) and Scotland (36-5).
They started strongly against England with Selvyn Davids scoring first to give SA a 7-0 lead.
But from then on‚ a catalogue of errors from SA‚ coupled with England’s ruthless punishing of those mistakes‚ saw the number one seeds bullied out of the game.
They were beaten up at the breakdown and while they appeared to be on the wrong side of some 50/50 calls‚ there was no doubt the Blitzboks were second best in that match.
It was a poor performance‚ perhaps one of the worst of this entire season‚ in their 69th game over a nine-month period.
SA were starved of possession and as a result were stressed on defence‚ allowing England to score five tries.
“If you can’t get your hands on the ball you are always going to be on the wrong side of the result‚” Powell said after the England match.
“We conceded three penalties at rucks that led to turnovers for England and they made us pay from those mistakes. If you don’t hang on to your ball you are going to suffer.”
Powell said the team were happy with the medal‚ although not the colour.
“What is most pleasing for me is the fact that‚ after that disappointment against England‚ we came out firing against Fiji and outplayed them to finish the season on a very strong performance‚” Powell said.
“We lost against Fiji six times during the World Series‚ so to be able to beat them here was a huge effort from the players. We will never be happy with anything but first place‚ but the bronze medal does help to justify the efforts and sacrifices a little bit.”
Powell congratulated New Zealand on winning the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.
“They clearly know how to pitch for once-off tournaments‚ as they also won the Commonwealth Games gold‚ so well done to them. It was a great effort from them.”
New Zealand completed the double-double with both the men’s and women’s team retaining the World Cup titles they won in 2013.
?New Zealand joint captain Scott Curry‚ named Player of the Final‚ was delighted with his team’s performance.
“It’s amazing‚ very hard to put into words. I’m so proud of the boys’ efforts over the weekend — we had four really tough games. Credit to England‚ who played really well.”
Fellow joint captain Tim Mikkelson added: “It’s huge. We knew it was going to be tough. We really rose to beat Fiji and we did well to beat an awesome England team‚ who were the form team.”
New Zealand were previously Rugby World Cup Sevens champions in 2001 and 2013 while England were looking for their first title since winning the first edition of the competition at Murrayfield in 1993.
Craig Ray – TimesLIVE