The Blitzbokke managed to beat Australia twice and get past New Zealand at the Stade Jean Bouin over the weekend, but were somewhat overwhelmed by the physical Samoans to go down 21-10 in the Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
It all but ended the South Africans’ slim chance of overhauling Fiji at the top of the World Series standings, despite the South Sea outfit losing the final 29-26 in dramatic fashion to Samoa, which saw their lead increase to 14 points over the Blitzbokke.
But it’s the gold medal in Brazil that Powell’s team will chase in August. They will know what the cost is of slipping up just once in a tournament over three days, as they did in Paris, where they ended up winning the Plate competition.
“Disappointed about the game against Samoa, but I think overall, it was a good comeback from the guys – beating New Zealand and Australia for the second time. Bitterly disappointed about Samoa, and it just shows that if you are not going to be up for a game, you might find yourself in trouble, especially when you get into the knockout stages,” Powell said.
“It’s a really important lesson for us to learn, especially for the guys who are in our system for the first time – Dylan Sage, Tim Agaba and even Francois Hougaard. They need to learn those lessons and gain experience from those types of games. It shows that day one and two don’t mean anything if you don’t pitch up for that first game on day three.
“Hopefully it’s an experience we can take into next weekend and more importantly the Olympics. Maybe a loss in a quarter-final is maybe not the worst thing in the world – it’s a good lesson for us and one that we need to remember when we go into a quarter-final at the Olympics.”
Powell mentioned that some players had “put up their hand” for Olympic selection, and Agaba, along with Rosko Specman, would’ve been among those. Agaba caught the eye in Paris with a number of storming runs with ball-in-hand, while he has long been renowned for his brutal defence.
Specman bounced back from being “rested” for the Hong Kong and Singapore tournaments with an energetic display at the weekend, and will look to continue in that vein in the London Sevens coming up at Twickenham on Saturday and Sunday.
In Pool A, the Blitzbokke face Canada on Saturday (11.36am), followed by USA at 2.42pm. They round off day one with a revenge clash against Samoa at 5.48pm.
Powell was forced to make two changes to his squad for the London Sevens on Monday, with Kwagga Smith (ankle) and Ruhan Nel (broken collarbone) replaced by Siviwe Soyizwapi and Chris Dry.
“As I was looking to rotate some players for the last tournament, the guys back home were ready to join at any time, so I am confident that they will fit in right away,” Powell said.
“Chris has played over 50 tournaments and knows our structures very well, while Siviwe did very well in his debut showings in Hong Kong and Singapore.”
But Frankie Horne and Branco du Preez are still not ready to play, and will get a chance to prove their fitness in the Roma Sevens invitational tournament in early June.
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Original source: Olympic lesson for Blitzbokke