Home Sport Blitzboks’ tackling and breakdown woes can cost them their Paris ticket

Blitzboks’ tackling and breakdown woes can cost them their Paris ticket

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The Springbok Sevens team won one game the entire weekend and finished sixth in what should have been a tournament where they could build momentum for the repechage event later this month.

The Blitzboks suffered an agonizing defeat to Ireland on the opening day of Madrid Sevens, and struggled through the rest of the tournament. Picture: SA Rugby on X

Leighton Koopman

IF THE Blitzboks continue on this losing trend, they can wave goodbye to any aspirations of playing at this year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

After another disappointing performance at the SVNS Grand Final in Madrid this past weekend, some serious introspection is needed from the South African Sevens side. They won one game the entire weekend and finished sixth in what should have been a tournament where they could build momentum for the repechage event later this month.

Instead, the team is left with more questions than answers over their readiness to secure a ticket to the Games when they play in Monaco from June 21 to 23.

They are set to face the likes of Great Britain, Tonga, Canada and Spain in the repechage for the one spot left at the Olympic Sevens in July. But the performance in Madrid did not inspire confidence that they would make it to Paris.

Instead, two things stood out that would give their opponents hope of upsetting the Blitzboks.

The South Africans were poor on defence – something that is not normally associated with them – and how they slipped off tackles is a great concern ahead of Monaco. That has to change drastically because right now, there is no doubt in teams when they come up against the Blitzboks.

Take the first pool match against Ireland. SA are usually excellent at keeping their cool and closing out matches when they lead. They could not do that. In the second one, New Zealand managed to turn possession over and score at the death to win.

Controlling the pace and possession during the late stages of a match has been a strong suit of the Springbok Sevens, but this season they’ve made a habit of losing it during overtime.

Then there is their breakdown play, which has also gone downhill. When the likes of Kyle Brown, Werner Kok, Kwagga Smith and current interim head coach Philip Snyman were still playing, turning possession over at the breakdown with counter-rucks had been a strong point. From there they’ve launched plenty of counters.

But right now things are not working for them and over the next couple of weeks at their base in Stellenbosch, they will have to sort out those areas if they want to go to Paris 2024.

“We were shown up in those two areas in Madrid,” Snyman said of their tackling and breakdown woes.

“Teams have picked this up and are targeting us in those areas, so we must focus on that in the next couple of weeks. We must realise we have one more opportunity and if we stuff up in Monaco, that will be it. It is time for us to deliver.”

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