USA 7s team Head Coach Al Caravelli didn’t have to be told why his team didn’t perform better at the Gold Coast 7s, and he didn’t have to be told, either, that the line between a good tournament and an iffy one is a thin one, indeed.
“We came very close to beating South Africa,” Caravelli told RUGBYMag.com. “Against the top teams in the world the margins are very close. They needed to bring in Cecil Afrika to bring them back, and if we'd played in Pan-Ams the way we played against South Africa, we would have won gold. So the silver lining is we continue to improve.”
But the coach also saw his team give any momentum they had away to Australia, and again, on the second day, to Scotland.
“Overall in the tournament we made too many individual errors, and that cost us,” he said. Those errors were magnified against Scotland and Australia.”
There were moments. Mike Palefau looked spry as he tested defenses repeatedly. He didn’t get enough ball, but he played superbly at times. Zack Test was all over the field.
The tries the USA did give up were often based on a series of errors – penalties, turnovers. Even the missed tackles usually came after another type of error gave the opposition something to build on.
“Defensively our structure was good and our organization was strong,” said Caravelli.
But … there was the issue of those restarts. That, as outlined in the latest Eagle Eye Column, cost the USA severely as restart mistakes turned attacking opportunities for the USA into the same for the opposition.
“The restarts were a problem,” explained Caravelli. “We made five restart errors, the most of any team in the tournament. We made three all of last year. It is not only a change in momentum, it takes us out of our game. Testy is one of the best in the game at getting the kickoffs in the air, and we take him out of the game. That absolutely cannot happen, it's a mental issue, and those errors are unacceptable. They will be corrected this week before we open up against New Zealand in Dubai.”
On the positives, all the players got significant time.
“Our depth is being tested already this season, and early, with the injuries we've had,” Caravelli said. “So I wanted to use as many subs as possible. No player played every minute of every game, so we were able to rotate around subs and get to see players like Duncan Kelm and Tai Enosa and see what they could do.
Nick Edwards has been away from 7s for over a year, coming back from injury, so he needs time to ease into it.”
And now, with Dubai and Port Elizabeth ahead, "we want to keep improving. We want to go forward, not backward. We need to support our line breaks, working in groups of three, not two, shore up those individual errors and - the handling errors - and correct those restarts. And we will start working on all of those as soon as possible.”