Boks battered, bruised but still full of belief

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 March, 2009, 12:00am

South Africa moved into the Cup quarter-finals after a mixed bag of performances, but it was a crucial injury that may have had the biggest impact on their chances of winning their first Sevens crown.

The South Africans - ranked as tournament number one seeds and co-leaders in the IRB World Series with England - easily disposed of minnows Uruguay in their first match of the day 53-0 and then toughed it out against a gutsy France side to prevail 26-12 in their final game.

They had safely made it to the Cup last eight but not without some collateral damage. Starting forward Philip Snyman suffered a hip injury in their easy victory over Uruguay which ruled him out for the rest of the tournament.

With heavy rain forecast for today making strong forward play even more of a necessity, the loss of Snyman couldn't have come at a worse time.

South African coach Paul Treu, however, wasn't about to buy into all the negative vibes and insisted that the loss of Snyman wouldn't hinder his team's chances of a first Hong Kong title.

'Philip is out for the rest of the competition, but it won't stop us from trying to win our first Hong Kong Sevens,' Treu said.

'Kyle Brown came in and played very well after Philip was injured and we've kept the momentum going. The guys who come in will be more than good enough to cope with any injuries we may have. We've a few players carrying ankle knocks because of the slippery conditions but nothing too serious.

'If need be Ryno Benjamin can also play in the forwards if we are short there so I'm not worried. We have the cover in the squad to perform well in the rest of the competition. Today we did enough to win our group and that's all you can ask for.'

Two tries apiece from Mzwandile Stick, Vuyo Zangqa and Mpho Mbiyozo and one each from Robert Ebersohn, Neil Powell and Brown made short work of Uruguay, while two tries from Zangqa, Ebersohn and Benjamin saw off France.

The French gave them plenty to think about, though, and had gone into an early lead in their encounter thanks to a Julien Patey try before the South Africans got their act together.

'I can't fault our effort today,' said Treu. 'We played with urgency and intensity and stuck to our goals. We played today like we did in the second half of our first match against Korea yesterday and kept focused throughout.

'If the guys have come off the pitch after not giving their all, then they only have themselves to blame. But they did what they had to do and that's all I can ask for.'

South Africa qualified as the Cup top seeds after the group stage play and will face Australia in today's quarter-final. If they are successful against the Aussies they will then face either Samoa or Argentina in the semi-finals.