The Springbok Sevens team on Saturday finished undefeated in pool play at the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens on an emotional first day of rugby in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The hosts beat Canada, Spain and Kenya in their pool B clashes to set up a Cup quarterfinals encounter with Portugal on Sunday.
A tribute to the late Nelson Mandela by all sixteen participating teams and match officials all wearing black armbands highlighted the spirit and camaraderie of the rugby world and the HSBC Sevens World Series. A moment of silence, followed by the singing of the South African national anthem and a brief video tribute of the late former president of South Africa was widely applauded by the crowd and players as they paid respects to one of rugby’s biggest friends.
The Springbok Sevens team also observed a moment of silence before their opening match against Canada, but were soon into their stride against the hard-tackling North Americans. Tries by Cecil Afrika, Kyle Brown, Sampie Mastriet and debutant Kwagga Smith secured a 24-7 win.
The pace of South Africa were too win much for Spain in their second pool B match and the home side recorded a convincing 38-0 win. Tries by Werner Kok (2), Cheslin Kolbe, Chris Dry and Smith paved the way for a comfortable victory.
With Kenya also beating Canada and Spain, their clash with the Springbok Sevens team turned out to be the pool decider. The South Africans scored early through Brown and although Kenya equalled the scores following a try by Felix Ayange, it was the home side that used their opportunities to finish top of the pool.
Tries by Frankie Horne (2), Philip Snyman and Kolbe extended the lead into a winning 27-7 score.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said afterwards he was glad they achieved their goals for day one.
“The first thing was to top our pool and get through the day with all our players intact. I am glad to say that we achieved that. There was nervous tension and it was quite emotional for our players to paid tribute to the late president Mandela, but I am pleased that we could remain focussed on the task at hand on the field,” Powell said.
“We still made some mistakes, but I am happy with the effort. We now need to focus on Portugal, who proved that they are here to play good rugby as evident by their wins over Wales and the USA. If we can remain consistent and get past them, we will be in the semifinals. That will be our first objective on Sunday,” added Powell.
•The opening fixtures on day two of the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens on Sunday are:
11:11 – Australia v Zimbabwe QF Bowl
11:33 – Wales v Canada QF Bowl
11:55 – England v Scotland QF Bowl
12:17 – Spain v United States QF Bowl
12:39 – Fiji v Samoa QF Cup
13:01 – New Zealand v Kenya QF Cup
13:23 – Argentina v France QF Cup
13:45 – South Africa v Portugal QF Cup