The Springbok Sevens beat Fiji 24-14 in the Cup final in Las Vegas to win their first tournament in two years.
The last time the Blitzboks won a Cup final was back on 5 April 2009 at the Adelaide Sevens during their World Series-winning campaign. Since then, they have suffered a poor run of form. Last season, they only reached one Cup final and lost five out of six Plate finals (which is the 5th/6th place play-off). This season, they failed to reach the Cup semi-final stage in the opening three tournaments and won only two out of three Plate finals.
However, they starred at this season’s Las Vegas tournament, completing an unbeaten run and securing the Cup title with impressive victories over England and Fiji.
In the Cup semi-final, Cecil Afrika inspired the Blitzboks to victory as they overturned a 10-0 deficit to beat England 17-10.
England dominated the first half and starved South Africa of possession to keep them scoreless at the break. Dan Norton and Tom Powell touched down to secure the former a 10-0 lead at half-time.
Then came the Blitzboks’ comeback. Branco du Preez’s chip ahead into space put speedster Afrika through for the first try. Afrika then turned provider as his long pass put Kyle Brown into space out wide and the skipper dived in at the corner to give South Africa the lead. With seconds left on the clock, the Blitzboks hung on to possession and were given a penalty in England’s red zone. Afrika converted the three-pointer, sealing a great comeback win.
In the final, the Blitzboks recorded an inspirational victory over a physical Fiji.
The Pacific Islanders were far bigger than their South African counterparts and used their size to their advantage as they dominated at the breakdown. However, the Springbok Sevens attacked smartly by running into space and offloading through the tackle. Clever interplay saw South Africa surge into an early 14-0 lead through Afrika and Du Preez.
Fiji hit back as Watisoni Vatu dotted down but Chris Dry’s try put South Africa 21-7 up at the break.
Fiji were within reach when Mitieli Nacagilevu crossed the whitewash but Bernando Botha’s try wrapped up proceedings and saw South Africa home. The Blitzboks’ tournament win puts them back into World Series title contention.
The Blitzboks’ campaign at the Las Vegas Sevens has regained Paul Treu and his players a lot of respect and they have every right to celebrate their impressive performances. However, they need to compete at this level and at the same intensity consistently. They have shown their full potential this past weekend by employing the correct game plan and playing to their strengths, but it will all be for nothing if they suffer another rough patch hereafter.
The reality is the Springbok Sevens have regressed since their 2008-2009 World Series triumph. This Las Vegas tournament victory is the perfect opportunity for them to turn things around.
Blitzboks fixtures and results, day 2:
Cup semi-final: South Africa 17 England 10
Cup final: South Africa 24 Fiji 14
By Gareth Duncan