Springbok Sevens coach Sandile Ngcobo heaped praise on his players after the Blitzboks made it into the last four in Australia, where they will face Fiji in the semi-finals of the HSBC Sydney Sevens on Sunday.
The Blitzboks beat Uruguay (28-12) and New Zealand (17-14) in their Pool B matches before they knocked Ireland out of the Cup competition with a 26-12 victory in the quarter-finals on Saturday morning to keep their title hopes alive.
Against the All Blacks Sevens, the Blitzboks needed a late penalty goal by Ricardo Duarttee to seal top spot in the pool, and they built on that with a clinical performance over Ireland.
It was a huge improvement from last weekend in Hamilton, where the Blitzboks lost both matches in the knock-out stages of the HSBC NZ Sevens. One of those defeats was against Ireland and for Ngcobo, their performance in Sydney against the same opponent was personal.
“Everybody agreed after Hamilton that we cannot be happy with those performances and that we needed to step up and represent the badge and all it stands for with everything we had,” he said.
“The guys did that today and I am very proud. The performances today were for everyone that contributed to this effort and also for the injured players, guys like Selvyn Davids who returned home, Siviwe Soyizwapi and Ryan Oosthuizen, who got injured here.
“This performance also represented the guys back home in Stellenbosch and it was pleasing to see the effort. I am very proud.”
Ngcobo said the way the players implemented the plan for each match was exactly what the coaching staff asked them to do: “We reminded them about the system and how that overrides any individual effort and we saw that out there.
“Defending like we did against New Zealand with six players on the field showed that the guys took it personal and trusted each other, that is one of the main ingredients in our system.”
The coach said they wanted a strong start against Ireland, which is exactly what he got as Christie Grobbelaar scored twice in the first five minutes to put the Blitzboks in control at 12-0.
“We wanted to score first and keep the pressure from there onwards and it worked out like that,” said Ngcobo.
“We have a very good mix in the squad currently and that helps in our execution. The senior players in the squad are very experienced and keep things together, while the younger players bring massive energy, and we got the rewards from that.
“I told the young guys to go out and play their game, that is why they were picked and they responded very well.”
The semi-final against Fiji will be at 07h28 (SA time) on Sunday. New Zealand and France will contest the other semi-final.
With regards to Sunday’s semi-final against Fiji, Ngcobo said it will be important for the players to rest well and come back with the same mindset that highlighted their performances on Saturday.
The Blitzboks booked their place in the semi-finals of the HSBC Sydney Sevens with a 26-12 win over Ireland in the quarter-final, as they played some classic rugby, mixed with individual brilliance and a little bit of luck too.
The victory was the Springbok Sevens’ fourth on the bounce in Sydney after they beat Uruguay and New Zealand to top their pool, and they got a little bit of revenge for last weekend in Hamilton, when Ireland beat them in the fifth-place semi-final.
The Blitzboks were out of the blocks in no time when Christie Grobbelaar went over in the first minute as the men in green and gold went wide and Dalvon Blood presented ook a delightful inside pass to allow Grobbelaar to race 55m downfield for the five points, which became seven as Ricardo Duarttee added the conversion.
A few minutes later, Grobbelaar was in again, this time after Impi Visser shrugged off a few tackles before putting his fellow-forward over from short-range.
Ireland pulled one back by Aaron O’Sullivan with two minutes left before the break, but the Blitzboks had the final say in the first half when Shaun Williams’ pin-point cross-kick found Shilton van Wyk on the right hand side of the field, with Duarttee’s conversion making it 19-7.
The Irish were first on the scoreboard in the second half when Andrew Smith went over after some missed tackles by the Blitzboks, with five minutes left in the match.
Moments later though, Jaiden Baron sealed the deal with some individual brilliance not long after he came on as a replacement.
Baron showed why he is nicknamed “The Wind” as he showed some superb soccer skills to kick the ball through for a try that he started and finished himself, although he was a bit lucky as the assistant referee missed a foot in touch as he was exhibiting his fancy footwork.
Ireland came with one final push, but the Blitzboks kept them at bay to advance to Sunday’s semi-finals.
Blitzboks 26 (19) – Tries: Christie Grobbelaar (2), Shilton van Wyk, Jaiden Baron. Conversions: Ricardo Duarttee (3).
Ireland 12 (7) – Tries: Aaron O’Sullivan, Andrew Smith. Conversion: Billy Dardis.