PHilipp Gleitze ran off. 40 meters to go. In full sprint he picked up the ball. He kept running. Ten more meters. five more Not much was missing and the German rugby international would have decided the game with the last stoppage-time action. Five yards to try to win the first World Cup game against Chile, until the round of 16 against South Africa. Instead, a Chilean defender flew in from behind, grabbed Gleitze's legs and brought him down. No try. Renewal. And there defeat by a kick through the bars.
Rugby 7s is a fast-paced sport. A sport with turns every second. Above all, it is a sport where very small moments can have very big consequences. As was the case with Germany's first appearance at the World Cup, where the missed victory on Friday in the knockout match with Chile meant that the German team did not play the hosts in a fiery atmosphere on the same evening. Instead: consolation round. The tournament of the first round losers for 17th place. Early on Saturday morning the first match of the day was against Portugal. Only a few hundred spectators had already entered the imposing arena of Cape Town lost.
Rugby 7s is a brutal sport. And that doesn't even mean the physical toughness in competition. The old saying about hooligan sports played by gentlemen also applies here. But it is always painful to experience how mercilessly mistakes are punished in this Olympic rugby variant.
Especially at the World Cup, where every single match is a knockout game. The Germans had a relatively comfortable 12-0 lead against Chile at half-time, but then went about their work twice with over-motivation. Two time penalties were the result. Two men outnumbered for less than two minutes. With seven against seven and only seven minutes per half, that can hardly be compensated for. The momentum changed and Chile saved themselves in overtime.
Rugby 7s is a thrilling sport. The mood in the stands is somewhere between a music festival and a carnival party. The action on the lawn between high-speed ballet and mass brawl. When the muscle packs sprint, crash into each other and let the egg-shaped toy fly back and forth, you don't have to know all the intricacies of the rules to be enthusiastic about them. It doesn't work without full throttle. No matter what's at stake.
For the German team, after the bitter end on Friday, this meant tackling the losers' competition known as the "Bowl" with the same intensity. "I won't lie, it hurt like hell," said German captain Carlos Soteras Merz. "But this is the World Cup. So it's appropriate that we continue to give our all in every game."
They did. Against Portugal (21:14) and against Tonga (17:12) the team turned a clear deficit into a win. In the final World Cup game on Sunday against Uganda (12:19) they had too many injuries for another energy performance. In the end, there was 18th place out of 24 teams, and Manuel Wilhelm, sports director at the German Rugby Union, told the FAZ: "Of course we're not entirely satisfied. But when the disappointment has passed, pride in what has been achieved will certainly find its place.”
What remains of this premiere at a Rugby World Cup? Above all, the realization that the German team is competitive, but still a little too inexperienced. "We didn't manage to get the horsepower on the road over the weekend," says Wilhelm. "We need more competition at a high level and we just need some more time." The simplest solution would be to qualify for the World Series, the league with the best national teams in the world. In the coming year, the team will make a new attempt. The performances in Cape Town are for the German rugby not remain a unique experience.