Cape Town - Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has lauded his team’s character after winning their record fifth straight World Sevens Series tournament after defeating Argentina in the Cup final of the Malaga Sevens at the weekend.
Thrilling doesn’t begin to describe the match between the South Africans and the South Americans. It was a proper contest from start to finish, but in the end, the reigning World Series champions came out on top after Selvyn Davids scored after the final whistle to break the 17-17 deadlock and win the game 24-17.
“Whenever you play Argentina it’s always going to be scrappy. It’s never going to be a nice, clean game where you play the ball wide, run it up and have an easy breakdown,” Powell said. “Defensively they will never allow you to just score tries. They are a hardworking team, they feed off the scraps and they always make it as difficult as possible for opponents, whether it’s at the set-phases or general play or at the breakdowns. We knew it’s going to be tight.
“I think we’re probably blessed to have come out of that game as winners. I think they’re starting to gel as a team and they play a good brand of Sevens. We will always be happy with the result in a final like that. When you play Argentina, you’re always going to have to fight for every inch and in every minute of that game.”
Despite the ‘untouchable’ presence his team have become, Powell went on to say that they still have some things to fine tune.
“We can now look at our games and the areas where we can improve. There are quite a few positives, but I think there are also things we can do better next weekend.
“The character of this team…they never get flustered, even if they fall behind with 30 seconds to go. If there’s one more opportunity for them to get the ball in hand, I will always back them, we’ve got playmakers in this team and guys with X-factor who are able to score those tries in those final 30 seconds.
“Well done to the guys, I think we lacked in the technical and physical stuff, but the guys made up for it in their character and mental strength.”
Powell also credited the “behind the scenes” support staff for their role in the team’s success.
“I am incredibly proud of the whole system and all the people behind the scenes who work hard to make sure we have the players on the field and that we keep raising the bar and setting the standard for ourselves.
“Yes, winning five tournaments in a row is great, but the effort that the guys put in and how they look after the system…that’s all we can ask for.”
The victory also extended the Blitzboks’ lead on the overall log for the season, and they will enter next weekend's Spain Sevens event in Seville as first seeds and on a 29-match winning streak, second only to New Zealand (47).
“It’s a challenging week that lies ahead, I think there are a lot of bumps and bruises, but mentally we will also have to reset and start all over when we come back next weekend.”
World Series standings:
1 South Africa, 66 points
2 Argentina, 53
3 Australia, 47
4 USA, 42
5 France, 36