Blitzboks into first World Cup semi-final since 1997
England stand between South Africa and a first appearance in a Sevens World Cup final this century after both sides advanced to the semi-finals in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The Blitzboks beat Scotland 36-5 in their quarterfinal to book a place in the last four at San Francisco’s AT&T Stadium‚ while England needed extra time overcome hosts the USA 24-19 in a tense quarterfinal.
The last‚ and only time‚ SA made the World Cup semi-finals was in 1997.
That team included the likes of Bob Skinstad and the late Joost van der Westhuizen in an era when sevens was not a completely different discipline to 15s.
That team eventually lost 24-21 against Fiji in the final and in 2018 the Blitzboks and Fiji could meet in the final again.
Fiji‚ the 2016 Olympic champions‚ demolished Argentina 43-7 in their quarterfinal to send a strong message to the three remaining teams about their form and confidence.
New Zealand completed the quartet with a tight 12-7 win over France to ensure the top four seeds all made the semis.
The Blitzboks‚ who outplayed Ireland on Friday evening‚ again fired on all cylinders and tries by Werner Kok (2)‚ Justin Geduld (2)‚ Siviwe Soyizwapi and Ruhan Nel eased them into the final four of the tournament.
But Blitzbok coach Neil Powell warned that his team will have to look after their ball possession if they want to progress to the final‚ as England are a dangerous side from unstructured defence.
“The guys really pitched up against Scotland and I was very pleased about that‚” said Powell.
“We were very clinical and used every opportunity we had to score. We gave Scotland very little‚ to be honest. That could come to nothing if we don't show up with the same intensity against England in the semi-final.”
Powell realised his team will need further improvement against England. “England play sharp rugby as we saw against the USA‚” said the Blitzbok coach.
“Their ability to retain restarts was instrumental in that win against the US and that is an aspect of our play we will need to be very sharp at if we want the ball.”