It’s the small, innocuous moments that count in sevens and the Blitzboks learned that the hard way again after succumbing to a 21-26 loss against the All Blacks in their final pool match of the Cape Town Sevens on Saturday evening.
In a compelling end to the day’s play, South Africa conceded a try with seconds to go as a beautiful skip pass saw Sione Molia gallop over the whitewash.
More importantly, the conversion was successful and quick enough to force a final play.
New Zealand needed to score, otherwise they would’ve been eliminated at the pool stage for the first time in their illustrious history.
But the problem was that they had to take the kick-off.
Shakes Soyizwapi was lifted and fielded the kick, but then inexplicably knocked on in trying to pass his grab.
The All Blacks pounced, attacking relentlessly.
Zain Davids made a scrambling tackle, yet the recycling was too quick and the ball was sent down the line for Villimoni Koroi to seal the deal.
While the Blitzboks still top pool A and will meet Scotland in the Cup quarterfinals, they will be disappointed that they didn’t show the necessary ruthlessness to stay unbeaten.
Rosko Specman’s pace and power had given South Africa the lead, while Werner Kok’s brilliant tackle with New Zealand in their in-goal area and Branco du Preez’s superb turnover in midfield were catalysts for two of the hosts’ tries.
Yet the accuracy was lacking at the vital moments.
Blitzboks – Tries: Rosko Specman, Werner Kok, Branco du Preez. Conversions: Justin Geduld (2), Du Preez.
New Zealand – Tries: Sione Molia (2), Andrew Knewstubb, Villimoni Koroi. Conversions: Knewstubb (2), Koroi.
BLITZBOKS 43 – ZIMBABWE 0
South Africa’s ferocity on the attack was something to behold as they ran their hapless opponents off their feet, eventually crossing the whitewash seven times and building themselves a nice points differential.
Soyizwapi was the host country’s most prominent hero, claiming a skillful hat-trick of tries to illustrate that he certainly has the potential to become this side’s go-to scoring guru, much like the absent Seabelo Senatla.
He showed searing pace from about halfway to put South Africa on the board, before numbly keeping himself in play for his second in the left corner.
And, to put the cherry on top, was on hand to take advantage of some excellent handling to round off the performance.
But it certainly wasn’t just the former Kings winger that stood out.
Specman and Justin Geduld show their playmaking ability in midfield, while Davids is rapidly becoming a valuable weapon this weekend with his ability to straighten the line and draw defenders.
Blitzboks – Tries: Shakes Soyizwapi (3), Rosko Specman, Kyle Brown, Justin Geduld, Impi Visser. Conversions: Geduld (2), Branco du Preez (2).
BLITZBOKS 22 – SAMOA 12
There was a collective gasp from a sizeable crowd when the powerful David Afamasaga brilliant released the ball after being tackled and then collected possession with lightning quick reflexes to put the Islanders in the lead.
It was nothing less than they deserved as their physicality once again seemed to disrupt the South Africans.
Things didn’t look rosy when the burly Davids conceded a needless penalty after he was explicitly told by the referee that he would be offside should he contest.
But redemption was around the corner.
From the resulting penalty to touch, Samoa were caught out as Davids effected a fine turnover, leading to a purposeful counterattack that was superbly rounded off by veteran Kyle Brown, who kept in touch well.
From there on, the Blitzboks gradually found their familiar rhythm.
Skipper Philip Snyman’s quick tap from another Davids turnover saw the South Africans create momentum once again.
Brown sprinted well down the right and his offload at the second attempt found his captain.
A flowing set-piece move saw Specman spearhead some quick hands, freeing up space for Geduld to finally put daylight between the sides, before replacement Impi Visser celebrated his first try for the Blitzboks with a powerful run.
Samoa finished strongly against a valiant defence, but it was all too late.
There will be concern for the South Africans after Muller du Plessis, who dotted down six times in Dubai last week, went off with what looks like a back injury.
Blitzboks – Tries: Kyle Brown, Philip Snyman, Justin Geduld, Impi Visser. Conversion: Geduld.
Samoa – Try: David Afamasaga, John Vaili. Conversion: Alatasi Tupou.