BlitzBokke defined by their defence

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:28
Large neil powell with players

EXCLUSIVE: Jan de Koning chatted to South African Sevens coach Neil Powell about their victorious Commonwealth Games campaign.

South Africa's gold medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games has resulted in the Sevens stars being idolized on the home front.

The plaudits have been heaped on them for the breathtaking and electrifying style of rugby produced by the BlitzBokke in Glasgow.

Yet, despite the exhilarating form they showed at the weekend - which saw them edge arch rivals New Zealand 17-12 in the Final - it is their defence that was highlighted by coach Neil Powell as key to their success.

On Day One, in the pool matches, SA did not concede a single point - as they demolished Trinidad & Tobago 36-0 (and scored six tries), Cook Islands 50-0 (eight tries) and Kenya 20-0 (four tries).

In the knock-out stages on Day Two, against more esteemed opposition, they conceded five tries - beating hosts Scotland 35-12 (five tries to two), Samoa 35-7 (five tries to one) and New Zealand 17-12 (three tries to two).

That is 106-0 on Day One (an average of 35 points per match) and 87-31 (29-10) on Day Two - including 31 tries in their six matches at the weekend.

It is obvious that Kyle Brown and his BlizBokke were anything but drab and dreary in their approach.

Powell, speaking to rugby365 in an exclusive interview after the team's return to South Africa, said that from the outset during their preparations for he Games there was something different about the team.

"The players just showed a greater hunger and greater desire to do well in this tournament," the wily coach said.

"From the first time the team got together there was something different about them," he said, adding that that desire was evident in the defence, especially in the Final - when they came back from 0-7 down in he face of a determined early onslaught by the Kiwis to seal a deserved win.

"We have been trying the whole season [throughout the IRB Sevens World Series] to put good defensive structure in place," he told rugby365.

"We wanted that work ethic and attitude on defence and we got it right in this tournament.

"The last time [it was this good] was [in the IRB Round Three tournament] in Port Elizabeth [back in December] where we had a 96 percent tackle completion-rate," he said of a tournament where the BlitzBokke beat New Zealand 17-14 in the Cup Final.

"We were very close to that tackle completion-rate in this [Commonwealth Games] tournament.

"We pride ourselves on defence and we have a saying: 'Defence defines you as a person'.

"If we concede tries it means the opposition had to work really hard for those tries.

"A guy like Warren Whiteley, when he came in, had the same attitude. The first day when we worked on our defence, he said: 'Guys, defence win and lose games'.

"And, when we had the ball in hand, we really attacked them. We didn't just shift the ball around from side to side, we attacked their defensive lines."

By Jan de Koning

* Don't miss the rest of our interviews with the victorious BlitzBokke, where we speak with Powell about his plans for the future, the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, we hat to Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks and also bring you the view of SA Sevens captain Kyle Brown, who may have to undergo surgery to repair the shoulder injury he sustained in the Final in Glasgow.

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Team P W D L Pts
Argentina Sevens 9 0 0 0 92
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France Sevens 9 0 0 0 73
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Spain Sevens 9 0 0 0 19
Portugal Sevens 9 0 0 0 18