Sibusiso Sithole scored a last-minute try to secure South Africa an amazing 36-35 comeback victory over Australia in the Cup final on day two at the Edinburgh Sevens.
It was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sevens rugby. If not, the best.
The wounded Blitzboks entered the Cup title decider without the injured Branco du Preez, Neil Powell and skipper Kyle Brown, who hurt himself during the semi-final against Wales. South Africa’s injury woes worsened when Paul Delport had to be stretchered off shortly before half-time, and Paul Treu had to call on his second last substitute Sithole to fill in.
At that point Australia were running riot as they were 14-7 ahead before Delport’s departure. Two more tries from Jonathan Lance and Henry Vanderglas on either side of half-time put the Aussies 28-7 ahead. Frankie Horne and Bernardo Botha gave the Blitzboks a bit of hope as they both crossed the chalk in quick succession, but Ed Jenkins made it 35-19 with three minutes left on the clock. South Africa looked dead and buried.
Then the unthinkable happened. Steven Hunt added a double to his first five-pointer to complete his hat-trick, which left the Blitzboks within touch of victory but with only 20 seconds remaining. From the kick-off, Chris Dry won the ball in the air and it fell to Sithole. The Sharks flyer burst down the right touchline and broke one tackle on route to the match-winning score.
The win sealed South Africa’s first back-to-back tournament titles in the history of the Sevens World Series and placed them second, behind champions New Zealand, on the overall standings.
Earlier in the day, South Africa overturned an early 12-0 deficit to beat Wales 21-19.
Welsh duo Alex Cuthbert and Kristian Phillips surprised the Blitzboks with a try apiece in the opening five minutes of play. Bernardo Botha eventually opened the scoring for the latter to make it 12-7 at the break.
Skipper Kyle Brown and Steven Hunt scored early in the second stanza before Paul Delport’s converted try sealed the win. There was late pressure as Cuthbert grabbed a brace, but South Africa held on for the win.
In the Cup quarter-finals, the Blitzboks rallied to a 28-5 win over Samoa.
After a scrappy start to the Cup quarter-final, Hunt capitalised on Samoa’s poor defence and broke three tackles on his way to the tryline. Cecil Afrika then dotted down for the final play of the first stanza, securing South Africa a 14-0 half-time lead. The game was sealed with tries from Brown and Sithole after the break.
Blitzboks day two results:
South Africa 28 Samoa 5
South Africa 22 Wales 19
South Africa 36 Australia 35
By Gareth Duncan