The Springbok Sevens team suffered a third defeat at the HSBC France Sevens in Toulouse on Sunday in what Blitzbok coach Neil Powell described as “the worst performance at a tournament in my career”.
The South Africans lost 24-21 to Scotland in the 9th place semi-final, having lost to Ireland and Samoa in their pool on Friday and Saturday respectively. Their only victories were against Spain and Japan and they had their worst finish since Powell took charge back in 2013.
“This is the worst performance by the team since I took over, no doubt, and there are very little to be happy about in this performance we delivered here,” said Powell. “We dropped the team as individuals and the team did not function as a unit. That is very disappointing.”
For Powell, who will be looking to find remedies in the next week as the team prepare for the HSBC London Sevens next weekend, the main problem identified so far is the inability of the players to execute their core duties. That created numerous mistakes and put the team under pressure.
“There were some good moments, but the mistakes are killing us at the moment,” he said.
“It is almost as if the players had forgotten what their roles and responsibilities are, and that put the system under pressure. Every player – and management as a matter of fact – will have to look at themselves seriously and ask why they are not contributing as they were earlier in the season.
“It is a tough series, and a number of teams did not perform as expected. New Zealand also did not get out of their pool and Argentina and Australia both lost their Cup quarter-finals. It is almost as if the teams are becoming a bit jaded. That certainly is making the World Series race very interesting.”
The Blitzboks (116) conceded their World Series lead to Argentina (118), who moved past them this weekend, but Powell remains positive that South Africa can win the gold for the fourth time with him as coach.
Powell said they will announce possible re-enforcements as soon as the medical examinations are done.
“We will have to replace JC Pretorius as he broke his thumb and both Tiaan Pretorius and James Murphy suffered leg muscle injuries,” said Powell.
“Mfundo Ndhlovu was also not available to play yesterday, but we managed to get him on the field today. We have identified some replacements already, but will make the final call later this evening.”
Ryan Oosthuizen was also suspended for three matches and will miss the opening two pool matches in London.
Against Scotland, with Oosthuizen not available and Pretorius injured, the Blitzboks were left a forward short and when Tiaan Pretorius was stretchered off, Blitzbok captain Siviwe Soyizwapi was forced to move from wing to hooker.
The squad will depart for London on Monday and the replacements will join up with the team in England, Powell confirmed.