Blitzboks could be sucked into relegation battle

France’s Chloe Pelle, right, tackles South Africa’s Mathrin Simmers during the Los Angeles SVNS on Sunday. | AFP

France’s Chloe Pelle, right, tackles South Africa’s Mathrin Simmers during the Los Angeles SVNS on Sunday. | AFP

Published Mar 5, 2024


France’s Chloe Pelle, right, tackles South Africa’s Mathrin Simmers during the Los Angeles SVNS on Sunday. | AFP

Leighton Koopman

The Blitzboks are reeling in seventh position in World Rugby’s SVNS Series, and if they do not improve on their current shambolic performances, a relegation battle may be on the cards for them at the end of the season.

South Africa ended in a disappointing 11th out of 12 competing sides at the Los Angeles SVNS this past weekend and has a lot to improve on ahead of next month’s Hong Kong tournament.

It was their worst performance in a couple of seasons, and there is nothing positive to take out of it.

Sandile Ngcobo, Blitzbok coach, was not a pleased man after his side’s efforts over the weekend as they missed the quarter-finals of a second successive tournament. They also dropped their standards in the previous tournament in Vancouver.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” he said.

“We certainly are a better team than these results reflect. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can think of two things (that are hampering them): the lack of discipline around the tackle area and the basics not being done well when we need to finish off our opportunities.”

Ngcobo said there is room for improvement in terms of the depth of players available to them.

“Having a squad with good depth results in internal competition and guys fighting hard to get and stay in the team. Our management will have to sit down and see how we can rectify that aspect of our set-up.”

The Springbok Women’s Sevens will push to go further in the remaining World Rugby SVNS Series tournaments after finishing sixth in Los Angeles with some strong performances.

They hoped to progress further than the quarter-finals, but after making the play-offs, they are eager to kick on from this performance to build towards the next two tournaments. And that is exactly what head coach Renfred Dazel wants from his team when they start preparation for the much-anticipated Hong Kong tournament.

They did not have a good time in Canada but turned their fortunes around after two fighting wins in the pool stages in Los Angeles. Although they lost their final two matches on the last day, they showed that they have the player capacity to compete over two weekends of tournaments.

“Those two wins were real rewards, and even in the Cup quarter-finals, we fought well against the USA in front of their home crowd,” Dazel said, as he praised his team’s efforts.

“If you take a look at where we have been finishing the whole season long, to come sixth now and be in the middle of the table, it is great for us. But to finish the weekend with a poor performance after doing so well was not up to our standards.

“One thing I am glad about is that there are no serious injuries, just a few little niggles. Hopefully, it clears up quickly ahead of Hong Kong. This sixth place will stand us in good stead ahead of the next tournament,” he added.

Dazel’s side jumped into 10th on the series standings, but there is still a long way for them to go to get away from the play-off positions.

The bottom four teams will have to qualify again to play in the SVNS Series at the end of the season. They will come up against four teams currently playing in the Challenger Series.