The Blitzboks defeated England 24-14 in the Paris Sevens Cup final on Sunday to secure back-to-back World Rugby Sevens Series titles. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
South Africa had to win the decider to surpass Fiji at the top of the series standings after the Pacific Islanders had beaten the USA to finish fifth in Paris. And they did just that to win the series by just two log points (182 to 180).
While Fiji have every right to feel desperately unlucky to miss out on the series title after winning five of the 10 tournaments this season, this result speaks volumes about the Blitzboks’ tenacity and consistency over the course of the 2017-18 campaign.
South Africa were the only side on the circuit to reach the Cup quarter-finals at all 10 events, a feat that saw the title race go down to the final match of the season for the first time in the history of the Sevens Series.
The Blitzboks started the final brightly as they pinned England back inside the 22m and they were rewarded with the opening try when Werner Kok beat four defenders to go under behind posts.
But their lead was short-lived as England, and Dan Norton in particular, twice cut the defence to shreds to take a 14-7 lead. First Norton set-up Oliver Lindsay-Hague for a try, then he stepped past Kok and Dewald to double England’s tally.
Somehow, South Africa managed to keep the ball alive for two minutes into stoppage-time in the first half. They recycled possession well until there was an overlap out wide and that’s when the ball was sent to Ryan Oosthuizen for an easy run-in. Justin Geduld nailed the touchline conversion to level the scores at 14-14.
England just weren’t at the races in the second half as South Africa tightened their hold on proceedings.
Having done so well to secure possession from the restart, England stupidly kicked the ball away and it went downhill from there. Justin Geduld launched a counter-attack from the back and Ruhan Nel made a mini-break before releasing Human for their third converted try.
England struggled to exit their own half and when Lindsay-Hague was caught in possession by Zain Davids, who won a penalty for his effort, Geduld kicked a penalty to push the Blitzboks’ lead out to 10 points.
The last three minutes saw a superb defensive effort from the Blitzboks, who shut up shop. They defended with all their might, forcing an England knock-on and from the subsequent scrum, Geduld hacked the ball into the stands to clinch a win.
‘We were graced here today,’ said Blitzboks coach Neil Powell. ‘You have to feel for Fiji, who won five tournaments, only to come up short by two points in the end, but this is also a massive reward to our Springbok Sevens and SA Rugby Sevens Academy system. There are so many people working so hard for this team and the squad here today rewarded all of them.’
Powell paid tribute to the 28 players used, management and all the support structures back in South Africa.
‘We do this for more than ourselves. The support from back home is incredible and we find support all over the world, we want to thank all.
‘This is a massive credit to our system and we are all very proud to be part of it.’
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) June 10, 2018
Photo: Sandra Ruhaut/Getty Images