South Africa finished the 2022 World Series on 124 points, but they were overhauled by the Aussies (126), with Fiji completing the medals in third with 122 points.
The Springbok Sevens warmed up towards the end of the HSBC LA Sevens on Sunday, finishing the tournament with two solid wins over Spain and Japan to secure a 13th place finish, but they started day two with a not so great 10-5 defeat to Wales in their opening match.
The two wins in three was not enough to bring a smile to Blitzbok coach Neil Powell’s face and he left his last World Series tournament in charge of the team on a disappointing note.
“It was not what we expected,” Powell said afterwards.
“I was not happy with the effort of the team over the two days and we will have to address that when back in Cape Town and preparing for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in two weeks’ time.”
The podium finish for the Blitzboks in the 2022 World Series season did bring some joy to the squad.
The on-field action on Sunday started with a ninth place quarter-final defeat to Wales. It was a low-scoring affair with a high error rate from both teams. Wales had the early running after they scored from the kick-off.
The ball was slapped back in the air towards his team mates by Ryan Oosthuizen, but it found Welsh captain Luke Threhane, who raced all of 70 meters to score within 30 seconds.
South Africa on the other hand, took numerous phases to get on the board, with Oosthuizen redeeming himself four minutes in to draw scores level.
No sooner had the SA side equalized, for Wales to take the lead again, this time after some lethargic defence by the Blitzboks, who seemed unsure in pressing up in the line.
The 10-5 lead at the break proved to be the final time the scorekeeper would be bothered. Angelo Davids came close with a good run, but was forced into touch, while Wales also failed to ground the ball after a kick-though.
In the end, it was a famous Wales win, their first over the Blitzboks since 2012, a telling tale of the SA performances in Los Angeles.
They then rebounded against Spain in the 13th place semi-final, beating the European side 29-12 after a 10-7 lead at the break, although it took South Africa a while to get into their stride with the error rate again high.
A try by Siviwe Soyizwapi, after a neat finish by the wing, was complimented immediately by another when JC Pretorius scored from the kick-off to take the lead to 10 points. Spain struck back on the buzzer with a converted try to cut the lead to three.
A much more familiar Blitzboks attack held sway in the second half, especially after Muller du Plessis stepped onto the field. He initiated a try and then scored a lovely one himself. Spain did score a late try, but their first win of the day was in the bag for the South Africans.
It looked more like the team that still had a chance to win the World Series when they played Japan in the 13th place final. South Africa’s defence was rock solid, especially in the opening two minutes when Japan attacked for a number of phases.
A turnover later through, Shilton van Wyk was under the Japan poles after a strong run. The 7-0 lead was extended shortly after when James Murphy scored, again with Van Wyk prominent, showing his skill set with two foot passes in the move.
With their defence now solid, it was just a matter of time before another turnover would bring a try and Pretorius was the beneficiary. His try took the halftime score to 19-0.
The second half saw a better effort from Japan on attack, but it was Oosthuizen who scored with a minute left to seal the win.
South Africa 5 (5), Wales 10 (10)
South Africa – Try: Ryan Oosthuizen.
Wales – Tries: Luke Threhane, Morgan Williams.
South Africa 29 (10), Spain 12 (7)
South Africa – Tries: Siviwe Soyizwapi, JC Pretorius, James Murphy, Angelo Davids, Muller du Plessis. Conversions: Branco du Preez, Shaun Williams.
Spain – Tries: Anton Legoburu, Jaime Manteca. Conversion: Francisco Cosculluela.
South Africa 26 (19), Japan 0 (0)
South Africa - Tries: Shilton van Wyk, James Murphy, JC Pretorius, Ryan Oosthuizen. Conversions: Branco du Preez (2), Shaun Williams.