The International Rugby Board’s (IRB) Sevens tournament took place at Outeniqua Park in George, but came into the spotlight for the wrong reasons due to the quality of refereeing.
The 12 000 spectators often vented their feelings about forward passes that weren’t picked up, as well as infringements at the breakdown.
In South Africa’s quarterfinal against Fiji, for example, Portuguese referee Rohan Hoffman missed a number of infringements in the build-up to one of the tries against the Springboks.
While coach Paul Treu believes his players had more than enough chances to win the game, he is concerned about some of the referees.
“I think referees will be among our biggest challenges going forward. I don’t criticise them at all, but rather the system as a bunch of young guys are being thrown in at the deep-end,” said Treu.
The Bok Sevens side lost their first ever final of any sort to the English in the World Series history, but had the embarrassment of doing it in front of an extremely disappointed crowd to finish the same way they did at the Dubai Sevens.
Last week the Boks lost to Australia in the Plate final, and in front of a partisan crowd in George they were again out of sorts as England dismantled them relying on turnovers and speed to beat the World Series champs.
After this loss, the Blitsboks will need to find an answer to their own woes, after being exposed for a lack of speed and flair in both the first two tournaments thus far in the series.
Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland ended their year on a suitably high note in Dublin on Saturday with a commendable 15-10 victory over world and Tri-Nations champions Springboks for their third successive home win over the visitors.
Ireland’s young fly-half Jonathan Sexton – preferred to 93-times capped Ronan O’Gara – kicked all their points while Schalk Burger got the only try of the match for the Springboks, who ended their long season on a low note with just one win in five matches on their northern hemisphere tour.
The opening few minutes saw more action than both England and Argentina managed in a whole match a fortnight ago as a knocked on ball from a promising move by Ireland’s back division ended up with Morne Steyn missing a drop goal.
The Springboks finally broke their duck on their overseas tour when they produced the couple of moments of individual brilliance that was all that was needed to beat Italy 32-10 at Stadio Friuli in Udine.
It was South Africa’s first win in their fourth match on tour, and should at least go some way towards easing some of the mounting pressure on a team that has been a long way short of the form that propelled them to the country’s third Vodacom Tri-Nations title.
But while the final scoreline was emphatic enough in the Springbok favour, and when some of the more experienced players were introduced in the second half the visitors settled noticeably, it was not the rousing performance that might have been hoped for to erase the memory of the past two weeks.
Speaking at a press conference in the Northern Italian city after making four changes to the Bok starting XV that lost to France last weekend, De Villiers said the Italians had shown great improvements in recent seasons and were fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.
“The more experience they gain, the better they are becoming and they are able to compete with any team on the day,” De Villiers said.
“They have a very good pack of forwards and they showed in their match against New Zealand that they will be very competitive at scrum time.”
Stephen Jones of the London Sunday Times have severely ridiculed the Springbok‘s front row and scrummaging on ehat he calls the “myth of South Africa’s formidable props and scrummaging”.
This is what the veteran Welsh rugby writer had to say:
”Once we get a supposed national characteristic into our heads, a national trait or a so-called national strength, there is no shifting it. It becomes a consuming dogma.
“You know the sort of thing: West Indies produce great fast bowlers. The French are rude and shocking drivers. The Scots are tight as ducks’ backsides. Wales produces wonderful sports journalists. Aussie and Kiwi referees are scandalously bad. Germans hog the towels on holiday. Well, most of these notions are just typecasting. Most.
The Springboks‘ end-of-year-tour went from bad to worse last night as they went down 24 – 23 to a spirited Saracens side at Wembley.
After a promising start in which they built up a 18-6 lead at halftime the Springboks fell away drastically in the second period as an amazing midweek crowd of 46 281 cheered Sarries home to a famous victory.
Notwithstanding Welsh referee James Jones making a number of odd decisions that favoured Sarries and the fact that this was South Africa’s second string the Springboks’ proud record of being the No 1 side in the world lay in tatters as they prepared to fly to Italy for Saturday’s test against Italy.
In what was a match between the Experimental Boks and the Expatriate Boks (Saracens had ten South Africans, including four former Boks, in their squad) the supposed next generation of Springbok rugby was made to look thoroughly inept once the Guinness Premiership log leaders got a sniff of victory in the second half.