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Ngcobo praises Academy effort in Colorado win

SA Rugby Sevens Academy coach Sandile Ngcobo praised the determination and belief of his squad after they returned from the USA on Wednesday with the Rugby Town Sevens trophy as part of their carry-on luggage.

The Academy side, invited by the Samurai Rugby Club and playing in their colours at Affinity Park in Glendale, won the 20-team tournament in Colorado with an impressive display on finals day on Monday morning (SA time), and Ngcobo said the decision to make the long-haul effort was worth it.

The South Africans outplayed Southern California Griffins 22-14 in the final, after earlier defeating the Rambling Jesters 41-7 in the semi-final.

On day two, they won 24-7 against DBlock Santa Rose RC in the Cup quarter-finals and 43-5 against Roots Rugby in their final pool match. They opened their tournament with a 45-0 win over Gorilla Rugby before a 19-7 pool defeat against Tsunami Barbarians.

Ngcobo said the overall effort was impressive and the experience gained even better.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for our youngsters and when the opportunity presented itself, we immediately grabbed it,” Ngcobo said.

“The Academy team have been working hard and training for over a year and never had a chance to implement our plans and test our skills in tournaments or in an international environment like we encountered in the USA, which was brilliant for our players.

“We started well in our first game and then got beaten in our second one by the Tsunami Barbarians, but that was great in the bigger scheme of things, as the guys learned some valuable lessons in that defeat.

“The big lesson learned from that defeat was that complacency has no place in our system and neither does trying to do things on your own. If we are not functioning as a team, the desired result will not follow.”

Ngcobo said the squad became stronger after the mishap on the opening day.

“The most rewarding part of that was how they responded and rebounded,” he said.

“They came back hard and game after game delivered the performances they are capable of, and that was rewarding to watch as a coach.”

Ngcobo was in charge of the squad in his first international tournament since he took over the reins from Marius Schoeman, who travelled with as team manager.

“It certainly helped to have him around and he played his part in keeping me calm and focussed,” said Ngcobo.

“The senior guys in the squad also played their part. They laid solid foundations in the matches and the younger guys could come onto the field, full of energy and finish strong.”

The victory was also important for the sevens programme: “Every match you play, is for everyone in the system, so this win was for the guys back home as well. The system demands of you to always work hard and never surrender, and we honoured that in Colorado.”

• The Springbok Sevens team have reassembled at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport and started preparations for the opening two tournaments to be played in the 2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the HSBC Canada Sevens events in Vancouver (18-19 September at BC Place) and Edmonton (25-26 September at Commonwealth Stadium).

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