Blitzboks desperately need to shine in the City of Angels

rugby01 March 2024 05:00
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It may not be panic stations just yet. Still, the Springbok Sevens side continue to flirt with disaster and need a solid performance at this weekend’s Los Angeles SVNS tournament to not only restore confidence but also get their campaign back on track.

After winning the opening leg in Dubai, the Blitzboks have fallen back into old habits as inconsistency, defence and ill-discipline have plagued them through the series as they struggle to keep pace with the top sides in the tournament.

Part of the problem is that the way the new SVNS format works is that the bottom four sides at the end of the season will join the top four sides of the Challenger series in the Madrid finale to thrash it out for the right to be part of the next season of the series.

Right now the Blitzboks sit in sixth spot, just above the “relegation zone” and if they continue to disappoint, as they did in Vancouver to claim ninth spot last week, the nerves will start to show. Add to this the extra pressure that the side have also not qualified for the Olympics and will need to win a tournament in Monaco in June to book their place in Paris. One of the teams they will need to beat is Great Britain, who beat them last week in Vancouver.

Still, it isn’t that there isn’t firepower within the Blitzboks setup, but for some strange reason, inconsistency tends to follow them around. In Vancouver for instance they used some brilliant individual skills to beat New Zealand in their opening game but then went off the boil and lost to Great Britain and Ireland, meaning they were out of the Cup competition.

A regulation win over Canada and an excellent performance against Australia gave them ninth spot, but brought with it more concerns about what could have been.

This weekend in LA they will face series leaders Argentina, who have had everyone’s number this season, and Ireland again, with the knowledge that if they don’t win at least one of the two, they will be out of the Cup competition again.

Coach Sandile Ngcobo believes they can win the pool, but knows it will be tough.

“Our focus is topping the pool. We are good enough to win tournaments, I honestly believe that,” he said.

“Bar one or two injured players back home, this is our best team, and they are capable of winning tournaments. We just need to be mentally sharp for six games over three days and the results will be the reward.”

Optimism is one thing, putting it into practice on the field is another.

The Blitzboks will need to show they can still shock the world. If they don’t they will continue on the path to relegation zone, something that nobody wants.

Blitzbok pool schedule (SA times, all matches live on SuperSport):

Saturday, 2 March

5:38am: v Ireland

8:36pm: v Argentina

Sunday, 3 March

12:44am: v Spain