South Africa won the 2016-2017 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Championship. The Blitzbox beat Scotland 15-5 in a tense final at the Stade Jean Bouin, France on Sunday.



It all came down to tactics

Opinions / Analysis


Fiji 7s semi-final loss to South Africa is quite the study of Fiji’s game plan during the Hong Kong Sevens tourney at So Kon Po Stadium.


The Blitzbox's perfectly executed game handcuffed the remarkable Fijian's from playing free-flowing sevens for their title defence.

Brilliant as the two numbers were up against, the radical change of tactics was the marked difference and did it ever was a tactical triumph for the African’s.

Neil Powell, South Africa coach instilled approach was far beyond superior and one that offered Fiji coach Ben Ryan no alternative to spring in a quick change of tactics during the contentious proper. 

The changed style as seen was so tight that, from the first whistle and at key stages of the second half, we witnessed the remarkable sight, the tapered space simply got Fiji utterly bewildered.

The loss ended Ryan and countries 18 game winning streak. While the back to back, Las Vegas and Hong Kong was remarkable, the three-peat seems to elude the countrymen and that doesn’t seem to be a worry - some for the Englishmen as he feels they’re on the right track to capture the overall World Series.

What the Fijian’s must be mindful though is the game has evolved so much so that the novice countries have grasped what was once Fiji and New Zealand’s to dictate.

And more so what was for these heavyweights to display, helped by a spell-binding of exhibition rugby, a series of no-look, NBA-style passes bamboozling other teams, the sport has quickly become a challenge for the reputable.

Powell is a great coach, a known patriarch of the good old rugby and his read on Fiji in Tokyo Sevens was theirs to loose. Fiji found it a battle and let’s be honest and here I may be umbrageous, Ben Ryan’s men lost in all facets of the game, the ruck, maul and in the pack.

As squeaker and tight the game was, Ryan, a talent tank in his very own way failed to re load his arsenal post Hong Kong victory.  Powell on the flip made every bit of a tutorial to up his game plan to his advantage and I believe Ryan rested with the laurels.

Perhaps it is this very past performance against South Africa’s 21-15 obliteration in the Cup semi-final had the team sleep at the switch. It averted Fiji its treble title haul terribly.

All is not bad with the Fijians; the team has made huge strides in terms of its defensive ploy.

The drastic change has obviously turned heads for the better. The team is playing well and it gets noticed. Consistency has been given a new meaning and Ryan certainly has the players back.

“The players continue to give their all. Their performance had never been A-plus”, he told IRB website. “The players get worn-out but regroup quickly. This an amazing team and I’m proud of the boys”.

“You can’t win every game of rugby. You win some you lose some”.

What remains to be seen is as to how Fijians fare up in the remaining two legs of the IRB series. The Glasgow, which is up next and England follows, will be very important for Fiji as it will be for New Zealand and current leaders South Africa.

Complacency on the part of Fiji could prove colossal as years of missed opportunity will come full-circle again.

But if the current form is anything to go by then despite trailing South Africa (129) with a mere 4 points Fiji (125) the fine cut of the rugby talent has what it takes to win it all but they must ratchet-up the intensity to achieve the desired goal, unless New Zealand (120) decides to throttle down the race for a three way battle, and if Africans maintain the lead then it’s all but game over for them islanders and the nemesis.

Let’s win the overall World Series and look to Olympics in Rio, Brazil with a lot optimism.

Yes we can.


 

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