Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell was a satisfied man after his team started their Hong Kong Sevens campaign with a hard-fought 22-7 victory over Japan in their opening match on Friday.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the South Africans though, but the Blitzboks’ coach added that a tough start to a tournament is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to success at a later stage.
The Blitzboks conceded a try in the opening minute of their clash when Siofisa Lisala scored for Japan, who enjoyed most of the possession in the half. Werner Kok scored an unconverted try three minutes in, but overall Japan had the best of the half and led 7-5 at the break.
The second half saw more fluency as Kok scored again, with Selvyn Davids converting to put South Africa 12-7 up. Tries by Justin Geduld and Siviwe Soyizwapi eased the lead into a 22-7 win.
“It is important to get your campaign off with a win, which I am happy about,” said Powell.
“To have things not going your way in the first match is also not that bad, as we needed to work hard to grab the match back from Japan. The guys realised that we needed to start all over and nothing is going to happen by itself, we needed to do it ourselves. I thought we laid a good foundation for the second day.
“The Japanese were very physical with a couple of big Pacific Islanders in their team, so I am pleased with the way we defended and handled their physicality.”
The Blitzboks face Scotland and Samoa on Saturday.
“Scotland is one of those teams capable of beating anyone on the day,” said Powell.
“They play a good brand of rugby and if they get it together on the day, they are hard to defend against because they hold on to the ball well. The key for us would be to take away their space and not allow them to get their game flowing.
“Samoa really did well in Las Vegas and Vancouver recently and they have brought that confidence to Hong Kong. Obviously they have a coach who won here before in Gordon Tietjens and with their physical abilities, they will take the game to us. We need to counter them, make our hits and be physical at the breakdowns.”
Angelo Davids became the 178th player to represent South Africa in the World Rugby Sevens Series when he took to the field against Japan. The 19-year-old was the only uncapped player in the squad.
Blitzboks fixtures – Saturday 6 April: (SA time)