World Rugby Sevens Series leaders South Africa got its Hong Kong Sevens campaign off to a good start by defeating Argentina 24-0 in their opening Pool C match on Friday. Former World Player of the Year Cecil Afrika scored his 120th Series try to open the score for the Springbok Sevens, who are aiming to capture their first title at this prestigious tournament. Speedster Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith and Werner Kok all followed Afrika over the try line to secure a hard-fought but comfortable victory for the Springbok Sevens.
Argentina defended with great determination for much of the first half. They did well to restrict the South Africans to their own territory but did however squandered a few opportunities that came their way with unforced handling errors. Afrika eventually broke the deadlock when he managed to race free to dot down under the posts to put his side 7-0 ahead.
Flying winger Senatla, the leading World Series try scorer this season, then stretched the SA lead to 12 points when he was on hand to perform a spectacular diver over in the corner. The match followed much of the same pattern in the second half, with Argentina trying to strangle the speedy South Africans with huge tackles and then electing to kick for possession when they eventually get hold of the ball. Kwagga Smith scored with his first touch of the ball after the Springbok Sevens had worked their way into attacking territory with some impressive handling skills (19-0).
Just before the end Kok powered his way through to score his side’s fourth try to confirm a comfortable win on the opening day. South Africa will be in action again tomorrow, first against Japan and then against France. The knockout matches are scheduled for Sunday.
Neil Powell, the Springbok Sevens coach said afterwards: ‘Argentina are always a difficult team to play so early in the tournament. I am very glad that we stuck to the basics and could eventually lay a good foundation in the first half. Those first five minutes were very important and I am happy that we showed a lot of patience when they defended so well. We denied them the necessary space and then forced them to make three handling errors in the first half. I add the guys really looked sharp, hungry and energetic and I’m pleased they won against a very dangerous team. Our focus now turn to Japan who we will play in the morning (SA time). I can assure you we will not be complacent and the boys will be highly motivated. With France still to come in the last pool match, this is really a tough group.’