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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

Hong Kong secure seventh-place finish in Edmonton as South Africa claim series – South China Morning Post



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7s World Cup

South Africa win HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title



*South Africa crowned HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 champions


*The Blitzboks beat Great Britain 24-12 to take top honours in Edmonton


*Kenya overcome hosts Canada 33-14 to claim bronze while Germany impress in fifth


*Great Britain dominate the women’s fast four with 22-5 final victory over the USA


*Just two months until 2022 Series kicks off in Dubai on 26-27 November 2021


EDMONTON (September 26, 2021) South Africa won the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 in style, beating Great Britain 24-12 in the final in Edmonton to back up their Victory in Vancouver last weekend and claim their fourth Series title.

The Blitzboks were the leading try scorers, leading points scorers and winners of every game across both weekends to finish the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 as deserved champions. They reached the final thanks to a 33-7 defeat of Kenya in the semi-final, following a comprehensive 46-0 quarter-final win over Hong Kong.


Great Britain finish second in the Series standings, ahead of last weekend’s beaten finalists Kenya, who reached the podium again in Edmonton by overcoming spirited hosts Canada 33-14 to finish with bronze.


Germany were the surprise package of the tournament, running out 24-19 winners over the USA to claim fifth place in Edmonton, following earlier victories over Great Britain, Jamaica and Hong Kong.


Great Britain’s women showed their consistency and class to repeat their triumph in Vancouver by overpowering the USA 22-5 to secure the women’s fast four title for the second successive weekend. Canada thrashed Mexico 63-5 to take third place and entertain the home crowd.


South Africa captain Siviwe Soyizwapi said: “I can’t explain the feeling. I think the most amazing thing is the feeling of reward of all the hard work that each and every guy in this team puts in. The Olympics were a really massive disappointment so we just wanted to show that is not who we are, and we just stuck to our guns and went back to what works for us.

“The future is really exciting, the young guys have got a taste of the World Series and gained experience of what it is like playing on the highest stage and that will be really good for us coming in to the new season.”

South Africa’s Muller du Plessis who was awarded HSBC Player of the Final and scored 11 tries over the weekend in Edmonton, said: “It has been an awesome two weeks, we came here with a mission to stick together and focus on our system and build on that so I am very proud of the team.”

South Africa coach Neil Powell said: “It’s always difficult backing up a victory the next week but we kept our feet on the ground and credit to the boys, they have been fantastic over the last two weeks. They have implemented what we discussed on the field and it has really shown in the results over the past two weekends.

“It’s been great just to be back playing again on the circuit. Hopefully we can get some normality back and play a full season next season and build up to the World Cup in Cape Town. It’s always a great vibe when the crowds fill the stadiums and I think Canada already showed a glimpse of what it can be again.”

Great Britain’s Jasmine Joyce, who was named women’s HSBC Player of the Final for the second weekend in a row said: “It feels absolutely brilliant to win again and a credit to all the new girls that have come in, they have been excellent on and off the field and have really performed and stepped up on the pitch. We’ve learnt so much on and off the pitch here and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

“It was unfortunate we couldn’t have fans at the Olympics in Tokyo, but it’s been brilliant having a crowd back here, they’ve cheered for every good piece of rugby.”

Following rugby sevens’ captivating second appearance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the sport returned to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series action with this month’s pair of HSBC Canada Sevens events in Vancouver and Edmonton forming the shortened 2021 Series, alongside women’s fast four tournaments. Given the unique circumstances due to the global pandemic, there is no relegation from the 2021 Series.

With more than 35 Olympians on show, the crowds were treated to a pair of action packed weekends full of thrilling rugby sevens as Edmonton played host to a Series event for the first time.

There are now just two months to go until the 2022 Series kicks off with successive events in Dubai on 26-27 November and 3-4 December 2021. The full 2022 Series schedule will be announced shortly.

Absent men’s Olympic champions Fiji and other Series powerhouses including New Zealand and Australia will have taken note of South Africa’s performance ahead of the start of the 2022 Series and no doubt been impressed by the way Neil Powell’s new-look squad came together so quickly.

Rugby sevens players and fans can look forward to a very busy and exciting year ahead with the 2022 Series followed by the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, on 29-31 July 2022 and Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town, South Africa, on 9-11 September 2022.

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7s World Cup

Canadian men lose to Kenya 33-14 in Edmonton rugby sevens bronze-medal match



EDMONTON — The Canadian men lost 33-14 to Kenya in the bronze-medal match Sunday on Day 2 of the HSBC Canada Sevens at Commonwealth Stadium, while the Canadian women won bronze in their four-team competition.

Alex Russell and Jake Thiel scored tries for the men against Kenya. Brennig Prevost added two conversions. Kenya, which led 14-7 at halftime, scored five tries in the match.

On the women’s side, the Canadians easily defeated Mexico 63-5 on tries from nine different players in the bronze-medal match.

Canada lost 22-12 to the Americans in the Cup semifinal after going down 12-0 at halftime.

Britain went on to defeat the U.S. 22-5 to claim the Fast Four title.

The Canadian men were playing for bronze after losing 22-12 to Britain in the Cup semifinal earlier.

Andrew Coe and Prevost scored tries in that match. Prevost also added a conversion.

The final saw Britain face South Africa later Sunday.

Canada, which finished sixth last week at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event in Vancouver, began Day 2 in Edmonton with a 14-12 victory over Ireland in the quarterfinal. Josiah Morra scored two tries and Prevost added two conversions.

Germany, an invited team, defeated the United States 24-17 in the fifth-place playoff. The U.S. went unbeaten Saturday to win Pool B ahead of Kenya in second place.

Canada finished second in Pool A on Saturday with a 2-1 record. The men defeated Hong Kong and Mexico before being routed by South Africa.

The tournament in Edmonton was part of the second half of a truncated 2021 campaign due to the pandemic. The 2022 season will kick off in late November in Dubai.

Only seven of the men’s core teams took part in the Canadian events with New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Argentina, Japan, France and Samoa among those missing due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2021.

© Copyright Times Colonist

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