Great Britain ended South Africa's Olympic Sevens gold-medal hopes with a 7-5 semi-final win on Thursday, reports MARK ETHERIDGE in Rio.
South Africa will play for a sevens rugby medal as the code makes its debut at the Rio Olympics, but the colour of that medal definitely won’t be what they were dreaming for.
That, after they went down 7-5 to Great Britain in a tension-filled semi-final at the Deodoro Stadium.
South Africa had led 5-0 at half-time through an unconverted captain’s try by Kyle Brown. But a minute after half-time Great Britain struck back as speedster Dan Norton stepped inside Dylan Sage to go over the posts untouched.
The try was converted by captain Tom Mitchell for a 7-5 lead and that’s the way it stayed, although it could have gone either way.
It wasn’t South Africa’s best performance of the Games as a few missed tackles, knock-ons and forward passes meant they never played with the freedom that marked some of their earlier games.
Great Britain will now go on to play Fiji in Friday night’s final. South Africa are left sitting in last-chance saloon with a match against Japan.
In the earlier semi-final clash of the Pacific Islanders, Fiji had proved too strong for tournament minnows Japan and bullied their way through to the final with a relatively easy 20-5 victory.
For South Africa to add a bronze to their three silvers (two swimming and rowing) at these Games, they’ll have to overcome a tenacious Japan. And do we have to mention that word Japan again after what happened at the 15-man World Cup last year?
The story of the match was that Brown scored with less than two minutes gone after an extended period of attack had ground to a halt in the right corner. But the ball eventually spilt loose and Brown pinned his ears back and a diagonal run into the left-hand corner saw him going over.
Cecil Afrika missed the conversion, which in the context of a low-scoring semi, could have been crucial.
Rosco Speckman then brought the crowd to their feet with a mazy run before a wayward pass drifted into touch and at the other end it was Great Britain’s No 8 James Davies, who nearly went all the way.
Halfway came and went and it was under a minute before Norton’s pace surged Great Britain ahead.
South Africa threw everything into attack with some concerted play in the final minutes and two penalties, one left, one right, gave them options but the British defence held firm.
It seemed South Africa had finally cracked the defensive code when they had men out left, but a long looping pass was deemed forward and possession turned over.
A scrum, followed by a reset scrum, saw the Brits cleverly hold on to possession before booting out.
That gave SA a final chance at the lineout but the ball went forward in the ensuing ruck, was overturned and finally hoofed out to break South African hearts.
Gold medal match:
Fiji vs Great Britain
Bronze medal match:
South Africa vs Japan
Fiji 20 Japan 5
Great Britain 7 South Africa 5
Fiji 12 New Zealand 7
Japan 12 France 7
Great Britain 5 Argentina 0 (after extra time)
South Africa 22 Australia 5
Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP Photo