Blitzboks coach Neil Powell says captain Stedman Gans’ try before half time gave them the belief to come back and beat Fiji in the LA Sevens final.
The Springbok Sevens team claimed a dramatic 29-24 win over Fiji in the final of the Los Angeles Sevens for their second tournament victory in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
The sudden-death victory in the final – in which they trailed 19-0 after five minutes – came in extra time after the Blitzboks scored a converted try deep into injury time to draw level with Fiji, with Branco du Preez kicking a brilliant conversion to extend the match.
The Blitzboks then scored the golden try – when Sako Makata was worked into space – in extra time to claim 22 tournament points, closing the gap on the World Series log leaders, New Zealand, to four points.
Speaking post-game, Powell said that it was crucial that his team got a try before the break as it gave them a mental boost going into the second half.
‘If we had to start the second half 19 points down, it was going to be really difficult to get back into the match,’ Powell said.
‘This was a proper rollercoaster of emotions, but I think that try made us believe that we can still come back. Up to that point we made silly errors and gave Fiji a chance to run on to unstructured defence.
‘That try stopped the slide. The fact that we converted it as well and suddenly took seven points off that early lead made us believe that it was possible to still win the tournament.
‘It was also pleasing to see that the players kept their faith in the system and trusted the guys around them. At half time I could sense this was far from over.
‘They really do believe in that jersey and have massive pride playing for their country. They also trust the system and that results in the team never giving up. They play for each other as well and are determined to maintain the high standards set by those before them.
‘We don’t look at the results all the time, rather the process, but this was important for us to close the gap on New Zealand.’
Powell also paid tribute to Du Preez after the veteran held his nerve to slot the conversion to take the game into sudden death.
‘Even if he plays one minute or the whole match, Branco will always give his all. He is the guy I would have nominated to take that kick if needed, as he is so consistent in that department. His impact he had in those last two minutes of the final were immense and he deserves a lot of credit for that.’
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) March 2, 2020
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images