GARETH DUNCAN, reporting from the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, watched the Blitzboks concede a last-minute try in a 31-26 Cup final defeat to New Zealand on day two of the PE Sevens.
The inaugural PE Sevens finished in 20 minutes of madness.
Ahead and during this fixture, the crowd created a magical atmosphere – something that was missing throughout the weekend’s festivities. The St Georges band arrived late during the day and their presence ignited an electric mood around the park, especially with the large All Blacks club who sat themselves in the seats below them. It was a fitting stage for the Blitzboks and New Zealand, who were clearly the two best teams at the tournament.
For New Zealand, it was their eighth consecutive Cup final appearance while it was only the hosts’ third in their history, having previously won one and lost one – both to the former. And on this occasion, the Kiwis went on to win their ninth South African leg Cup title thanks to Tomasi Cama, who scored and converted a try in the last move of the game.
It was a close contest in the first half, which ended 17-14 at the break in the Kiwis’ favour. DJ Forbes led from the front and powered over for the opening try, which was cancelled out by Bernado Botha’s finish. The hosts were then dealt a blow when Boom Prinsloo was yellow-carded for a professional foul at the breakdown.
From a defending scrum, the Blitzboks crumbled and Cama capitalized to dive over for his first five-pointer. Once South Africa returned to seven men, Botha went on to score his fourth try of the tournament – but New Zealand held a slender half-time lead after Frank Halai crossed the chalk.
The Blitzboks dominated the early parts of the second half, surging into a 26-17 lead with Steven Hunt and Cecil Afrika running over from close range. But defensive lapses at the death saw Halai and Cama complete their braces, the latter score a controversial one as a few South African players believed they were tripped during the final play. But Australian referee Anthony Moyes waved play on as Cama broke South African hearts.
The day’s results sees Fiji and New Zealand share the World Series table lead with 51 log points each. The Fijians performed badly on day two, which ended with a 48-0 thrashing from Wales in the Plate final. The Blitzboks find themselves third on the table with 48 log points while England (47) and France (38) trail closely behind.
Earlier in the day, the Springbok Sevens downed Samoa 12-7 in the Cup semi-final.
It was a physical clash and one the hosts handled well as they kept the game tight and capitalised on favourable field position. They spent most of the first half in Samoa’s 22m area, and they finished two scoring opportunities to take a 12-0 half-time lead. A Branco du Preez side step and break opened the scoring while Botha showed great power out wide to finish in the corner. Samoa ended the half with six men when Afa Aiono was sin-binned for striking Kyle Brown with the forearm.
After the second stanza restart, South Africa placed a greater emphasis on restricting the Pacific Islanders – which they did to great effect. Samoa struggled to break into the hosts’ red zone but managed to score a late try through Paul Perez. The Blitzboks, however, still did enough for a place in the Cup final
In their first match of the day, Cecil Afrika scored two crucial tries in the Springbok Sevens’ 26-12 win over France in the Cup quarter-final.
Coming off a 19-5 Cup defeat to the French in the same fixture at the Dubai Sevens last weekend, the Blitzboks ended on top on this occasion thanks to their hometown playmaker. But it didn’t come easy, as an attacking error saw Terry Bouhraoua put the opposition 5-0 ahead.
An Afrika run set up Boom Prinsloo minutes later while the former also dotted down after sniping a gap. But Renaud Delmas finished off a late attack, which capitalised on the hosts’ shaky rearguard. The half-time score read 12-12.
The Blitzboks produced a strong second half showing to seal their place in the top four. Brilliant stepping from Afrika saw the speedster grab his 70th World Series try while Botha finished off proceedings after chasing down a Du Preez chip.
Blitzboks’ fixtures, day two:
Cup quarter-final: South Africa 26 France 12
Cup semi-final: South Africa 12 Samoa 0
Cup final: South Africa 26 New Zealand 31