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7s World Cup

The players the Springboks simply cannot be without for the British & Irish Lions tour



In the two-year run-up to the Springboks’ World Cup victory, the side perfected and mastered a high-risk, high-energy defensive system under Rassie Erasmus and defence coach Jacques Nienaber.

Precariously placed heading into South Africa’s away game in Wellington back in 2018, Rassie Erasmus claimed he was under pressure and would quit if they lost, citing his record of never losing three matches in a row as a reason.

Their defence gave up 34 points in a wild and thrilling narrow victory, but it was that aggressive defensive system that came through to pressure Damian McKenzie into dropping the ball on the very last play to seal the win.

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It wasn’t perfect, but it worked when it mattered.

In the return match in Pretoria, a dominant showing had the All Blacks completely powerless for the first time in a long time, with the visitors tryless for the first 54 minutes.

At 30-13 after an hour’s play, a serious warning light was flashing.

Not since before the 2015 World Cup had an All Black side been so thoroughly outclassed and out of answers. The reigning world champions and pioneers of try-scoring rugby were flummoxed, down heavily in a test match for the first time since 2012 at Twickenham.

Even the loss the year prior at home to the Lions with 14-men on the park had the All Blacks leading heading into the last quarter of the game.

A calamitous last twenty minutes by the Springboks handed the game away and the first 60-minutes of the game was quickly forgotten.

It shouldn’t have been, as it was the first real sign that the Springboks were in the process of developing the world’s best defence.

The Springboks continued to tinker and made changes to find the best formula.

Lukhanyo Am became the starting centre and Jesse Kriel became the finisher. Two starting quality centres, 1a and 1b, used in tandem to bring endless amounts of pressure.

With Am going off after 50 minutes, a fresh Kriel could come on and charge off the line for the remainder of the game, continuing the suffocating pressure needed to stop the ball ever getting to the edge.

In order for this system to work, it requires supremely conditioned athletes on the fringes.

Having one tank of fuel for each half meant that the energy would never dip out wide with one centre replaced by the other.

This means that Jesse Kriel is as important to the Springboks’ defence as Lukhanyo Am. The likelihood either one of them could keep up consistent intensity by themselves for the full 80 is unknown.

Certainly they would aspire to, but it would be a superhuman effort to actually do so.

The issue ahead of the Lions tour is the Japan Top League is not the ideal preparation for the physicality of test rugby, where Jesse Kriel currently is playing.

With only a handful of teams at a Super Rugby level, there isn’t consistent competition each and every week.

At 26-years-old, he is certainly not done in the test arena, but a question mark resides over whether Rassie Erasmus will pick Springboks out of the Japanese competition.

Erasmus says Europe is comparable to Test rugby, but the Top League is definitely not.

Outside centre options in South Africa not named Lukhanyo Am are lacking.

The Bulls last used Tongan-international Nafi Tuitavake. Ruhan Nel of the Stormers is a career Sevens player. Graduate South African under-20 prospect Mannie Rass of the Lions is promising but rather unproven as yet.

Jesse Kriel coming back to South Africa or finding a club in Europe is just what the Springboks need, otherwise Nienaber’s defensive system will suffer, with Am required to play high-intensity defence for eighty minutes.

The end of year tour in 2018 also gave Rassie Erasmus a taste of life without Faf de Klerk.

They beat Scotland narrowly and lost to Wales and England. The halfback options didn’t light the world on fire until Herschel Jantjies burst onto the scene in 2019 to become the reserve halfback.

As good as Jantjies has shown so far, there just isn’t another halfback in World Rugby that can do what de Klerk does in defence and a Springbok side starting Jantjies would be vastly different.

De Klerk can handle any winger one-on-one, shut down overlaps even when outnumbered, and his defensive spatial coverage across the pitch is second to none. His GPS numbers must be off the charts.

He knows when to shoot up and take space, when to commit to the tackle and when to hold off. He plays as an edge defender, a sweeper and a front line defender in the middle all in one.

Not to mention his physicality in contact; no other halfback comes close except perhaps Antoine DuPont.

His role in the defence is basically the glue that holds it together, often the last man in the chain to prevent the opposition from breaking away. And he does this time and time against the odds.

Without him, the entire defensive system risks falling part and the Lions’ chances of winning in South Africa dramatically increase.

Then there’s Cheslin Kolbe.

Kolbe has the most dangerous feet in the world. But that’s not the only reason why he became the first choice right winger under Erasmus.

Much like Am and Kriel’s ability to make the right decision when jamming in, Kolbe’s edge defence is spectactular. His reads and decisions are consistently excellent, and his tackle completion percentage is high.

South Africa’s number two right-wing, Sbu Nkosi, was beaten multiple times by Wales in the opening twenty minutes of the World Cup semi-final, caught out in no man’s land as the Welsh continually raided the left-hand channel.

Wales’ one try of the match came through Josh Adams with centre Jonathan Davies gifting him the last pass off a scrum play. Nkosi was out of sync with Am on the blitz, arriving too late to shut down the play.

If Davies is lining up for the Lions next year, the Welsh centre will be licking his lips if he sees Nkosi out wide.

Whilst the Springbok pack is vitally important to their set-piece and physicality in close, what really keeps the opposition score surpressed is the work of the Springbok centres/wings and halfback out wide in Neinaber’s system.

The Lions rolled out a successful width attack around the Sexton/Farrell axis in New Zealand in 2017. If they bring a similar plan, it puts these three guys under the microscope who have been absolutely critical to making the Springboks a historically great defensive side.

A Springbok side minus De Klerk, Kolbe or either Am or Kriel would be a very enticing opponent for Warren Gatland.

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7s World Cup

Watch: Bizarre moment player held-up at Dubai Sevens



The clock wound down during this strange moment involving the Blitzboks and Japan

Watch: Bizarre moment player held-up at Dubai Sevens

We are used to seeing defenders in the 15s game employing the ‘choke tackle’ – the art of holding a tackled player up off the ground, creating a maul in the hope of getting a turnover. But it was a real novelty to see a player held up in sevens. So when South African star Selwyn Davids was help up by these Japanese player (with the clock ticking away) at the Dubai Sevens, it was a novelty to say the least.

What makes this so strange, apart from the time draining away? Well, because none of Davids’s Blitzboks team-mates engaged, the referee was forced to say “this is not a maul.”

In 15s, we would likely see a turnover but this is the Sevens World Series. So time ran on. The Japanese players had to rip the ball or get him down…. or drive him into touch. None of this happened and so we had a stalemate.

The ball was eventually worked out to South Africa’s JC Pretorius, after the Japanese side had given up the ghost on this defensive ploy.

As World Rugby say on their official account, “You’ve never seen this before in sevens. Trust us.” And you know what? They are probably right!

South Africa won the first leg of the Dubai Sevens last week, and defeated Japan here 48-0. Their next match-up is against Ireland Sevens, with Great Britain also on their fixture card.

What did you make of this moment? Let us know via or you can hit us up on our social media channels too.

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7s World Cup

The Fiji Times » 7s to 15s transition will impact series outcome



The release of majority of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games gold medal winning stars from their 7s contract to transit into the 15s arena could have a drastic effect on the Fijian 7s team’s bid to win the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next year.

That’s the view of former Fiji 7s coach Peni Veidreyaki after the Fiji Airways Fijian 7s exit from the cup competition following losses to France and Spain in the second series in Dubai this weekend.

Fiji went down France 17-22 and then surprisingly to Spain 14-33.

The side finished off their pool campaign with a 40-7 victory against Argentina but this was not enough to ensure the side a spot in the cup quarter-finals.

Veidreyaki faced a similar scenario in 2000 when he was forced to take a second string team to the final event of the then called International Rugby Board Sevens Series after former Flying Fijians coach the late Greg Smith roped in most of his players for the Pacific Rugby Cup commitments.

Back then with a tight race for the title against New Zealand, the Fijian 7s team just needed to beat Argentina in the quarter-final to lift the inaugural title but eventually went down 35-21 ending up six points short of the victorious Kiwi’s.

Veidreyaki said it took former Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber nearly three years to build a winning combination to win the 2018-2019 series after his appointment in 2016.

He said under Baber’s tenure Fiji failed to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2018 in Australia and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in the United States.

“Why take 11 new players when members of the Tokyo gold medal winning team could have been retained for the two major events next year,” questioned Veidreyaki.

“It takes time to groom players for an international environment especially when you have seven players in the squad who haven’t even gone abroad.

“Only a few players from the winning squad in Tokyo got overseas contracts while others have been contracted by the Fijian Drua.

“A winning combination cannot be built overnight and in rugby, the 7s game and 15s game are separate codes which requires special coaching techniques especially at the highest level.

“The Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham, England from July 28 to August 8 while the RWC 7s will be held in September 9-11 in South Africa.

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7s World Cup

GRFU/Trophy Stall Sevens tournament set for this weekend – News Room Guyana



The Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) has partnered with the Trophy Stall to stage a one-day Sevens tournament on Saturday at the National Park. Details of the tournament were announced on Friday when the sponsorship was finalised in Georgetown.

Trophy Stall has donated the first and second place trophies, Most Valuable Player prize, along with some refreshments.

The sponsorship is going towards a four-team Sevens tournament, which will also have female exhibition matches. Games in the one-day tournament will start at noon on Saturday (December 4) at the western side of the National Park.

Teams will comprise players of local rugby clubs and the ultimate aim is to get a core of players from which the National team for the next year’s Rugby Americas North (RAN) Championship in Mexico would be selected.

Proprietor of Trophy Stall, Ramesh Sunich, who was on hand at business’ South Road location where the presentation was done, urged other business entities to find a way to support sport in Guyana.

Meanwhile, the GRFU will host an event themed ‘Sip and Paint’ Black Tie Edition at Pressy’s Banquet Hall on Regent Street, Georgetown, from 18:30h to 23:00h, on Sunday, December 5.

The main aim is to raise funds to offset expenses for the upcoming Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens tournament in Mexico from February 11-13, 2022.

This will be the first of a series of fundraisers to offset the approximately GY$15 million budget to send a male and female Sevens team to the event.

Moreover, the 2022 RAN Sevens will also serve as qualifiers for 2022 Central American and Caribbean Games, Rugby World Cup Sevens, and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

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