The Springbok Sevens defeated New Zealand 26-17 in a pulsating final of the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament, a week after they claimed the Dubai Sevens title.
The hosts trailed Fiji by two points coming into their home event, but now lead the standings with 59 points, with Fiji (51), New Zealand (47) and Australia (46) completing the top four places that would esnure automatic entry into the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
More than 63 000 people attended the event in Port Elizabeth and they were left in raptures after the Blitzboks again came from behind to claim the title they won a year ago. The team, who had also trailed Australia in the semifinals (10-0), conceded an early try in the final, as Sherwin Stowers dotted down for New Zealand.
Tries by Philip Snyman and Cecil Afrika gave the home side the lead, but Afrika was yellow-carded shortly after and New Zealand used that advantage to claim a second try before the end of the half.
Leading tournament try-scorer Seabelo Senatla scored early in the second half to push the lead out to nine points, but again New Zealand came back within two minutes with a try by Joe Webber, his second of the final.
The deal was sealed for the home side though when Kwagga Smith scored, with Afrika’s conversion providing the necessary buffer for any late All Blacks Sevens counterpunch.
Coach Neil Powell was pleased with his side’s ability to stay calm under pressure and to play to their strengths.
“We had to dig deep. We had three very worthy opponents today and each asked very different questions. We had to come from behind in each match today, but this team has shown they have the determination and belief to succeed.
“We used sport psychologist Dr. Jannie Botha this week and it helped the guys to stay focused in a week full of the pressure that comes with hosting the tournament.
A late second half surge by the Springbok Sevens team helped them to a hard-fought 19-10 win over Australia in the semifinals earlier on Sunday.
Three second half tries gave the home side a win that looked unlikely after Australia scored twice in a minute and the Blitsboks had Afrika sin-binned as well.
Australia’s 10-0 lead was first cut by a try from Branco du Preez, before Kyle Brown and Werner Kok ran in from a distance to clinch the win.
In their quarterfinal match against England, they had to overcome an early try by England’s Alex Grey to score a 31-7 win.
A brace by Kwagga Smith, another long-range effort by Seabelo Senatla and a well-worked try by Werner Kok secured the passage into the next phase.
Earlier the USA won the Plate Final by beating Fiji 21-14, Portugal won the Shield by beating Samoa 19-14 and Canada outlasted Kenya 24-7 for the Bowl.
In the bronze final, Australia beat Argentina 34-19.
The standings after three rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series are:
- South Africa – 59
- Fiji – 51
- New Zealand – 47
- Australia – 46
- Argentina – 40
- England – 37
- Samoa – 29
- Scotland – 27
- USA – 26
- Wales – 25
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