Rugby: Blitzboks keen to sweep Asian leg as they pursue record

Leaders South Africa set their sights on a maiden HK Sevens Cup, with S'pore to follow

No team have competed in every Cup final in a single season since the multi-leg World Rugby Sevens Series began in 1999, but South Africa are eyeing that piece of history, together their first overall championship since 2009.

The Blitzboks have captured four legs (Dubai, Wellington, Sydney, Las Vegas) and were losing finalists to England in both Cape Town and Vancouver.

They have arrived in Hong Kong for this weekend's tournament in confident mood and are looking to extend their lead atop the standings with further wins in the Asia swing. The 10-stop series will move to Singapore next week.

They have 126 points, 23 clear of second-placed England. A win is worth 22 points, the runners-up get 19, and the third, 17.

After Singapore, the series goes to Paris before wrapping up in London next month.

A below-par outing at last year's Rio Olympics, where they missed out on the showpiece final and had to settle for bronze, has been their key motivation for this season's fine run, captain Philip Snyman told The Straits Times in a phone interview from Hong Kong yesterday.


South Africa's Cecil Afrika (left) catching a line-out during the US leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series tournament. The Blitzboks currently lead the standings on 126 points ahead of the Hong Kong leg, with Singapore, Paris and London to come respectively. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The 30-year-old, who has finished runners-up with South Africa for the past four campaigns, said: "The players came together in October and we told ourselves there can be no excuses for this season. We know there's enough talent in the squad to be successful but we had to show it on the field."

And it has been some statement of intent. South Africa have won 33 of their 36 matches this term, drawing a pool game 12-12 against England in Vancouver, and losing the two Cup finals.

South Africa coach Neil Powell has led the team since 2013 and is delighted to see his charges unleash their full potential.

He said: "I'm never completely satisfied though. There's never been a perfect sevens game from us but we strive for it. If we concede zero tries in a tournament, then maybe I'll say our defence is perfect. We can always improve."

It is a terrifying thought for their opponents. South Africa have made the most tackles (737), scored the most tries (148 and tied with Fiji) and received the fewest yellow cards (two) this season.

  • SPRINGBOKS' 2017 SEVENS CUP FINALS

  • W
    DUBAI: FIJI 14 S. AFRICA 26

    L
    CAPE TOWN: S. AFRICA 17 ENGLAND 19

    W
    WELLINGTON: FIJI 5 S. AFRICA 26

    W
    SYDNEY: ENGLAND 14 S. AFRICA 29

    W
    LAS VEGAS: S. AFRICA 19 FIJI 12

    L
    VANCOUVER: S. AFRICA 7 ENGLAND 19

Snyman said: "Everyone buys into the system and works for one another. There are no stars, everybody is prepared to fight for the jersey."

The team possess outstanding performers, like lightning-quick wingers Seabelo Senatla and Werner Kok. Between them, they have scored 47 tries.

South Africa have never won the Hong Kong leg. Their last Cup final appearance there was in 2009 which they narrowly lost to Fiji.

In Singapore, they were last victorious in 2004 (the event stopped in 2006 and returned only last year).

Powell was unperturbed by this poor run in this region, as his side aims to surpass the all-conquering New Zealand team that won a record seven legs in the 2002-2003 season.

He said: "The boys are ready for whatever challenges there are. We had a good break and are looking forward to getting some wins in Asia."


  • Tickets to the Singapore Sevens can be purchased at singapore7s.sg.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'Boks keen to sweep asian leg in pursuit of record'. Print Edition | Subscribe