JOHANNESBURG – South Africa claimed their third tournament win of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016-17 after beating England 29-14 in Sydney on Sunday.
The Blitzboks, competing in their fourth consecutive final on the world series, beat rivals England in what was a repeat of the Cape Town final last December to cement their position at the top of the world series standings.
Their three wins from four is the best series start for a side since New Zealand in 2008, who won five tournaments in a row.
HSBC Player of the Final Seabelo Senatla, who now leaves the Blitzboks to join the 15s game, said: “It is incredible. The guys are just magicians, hats off to them, I am just the finisher of the moves. It’s bitter sweet, we play here with family so it is a pity to be leaving the family but it’s a new challenge (in Super Rugby) that I’m excited for.”
Earlier, New Zealand beat Australia to claim bronze while Russia walked away with the Challenge Trophy in Sydney after beating France, 26-0.
England dug deep to beat New Zealand in the semi-final and while they showed no lack of heart in the last game of the day, South Africa imposed themselves early and got the tactics right on Sunday evening in Sydney.
Tries from captain Philip Snyman, Senatla and Justin Geduld went unanswered in the first half, while a second from Geduld in the second all but wrapped the game up. England captain Tom Mitchell crossed for a consolation score as did Dan Norton, but in between those, Stephan Dieppenaar put the game out of reach.
South Africa head coach Neil Powell said: “I think it was great for the guys to come out and beat England, after losing to them in the pool stages (on day one). Last season we played in four finals and we only won one. So it’s special.
“I’m delighted with the back-to-back wins in Wellington and Sydney.”
New Zealand’s energy levels were undoubtedly sapped after a tough Cup quarter-final against Fiji but they showed no signs of fatigue in the opening semi-final against England, as Regan Ware ran a try in at the corner despite the best efforts of Tom Mitchell and Dan Norton. Ware crossed again minutes later for an almost identical try, but it was ruled out for a forward pass.Dream-team pick Phil Burgess levelled for England before half-time when he showed a clever step to score his third try in Sydney.
Defences were tested and proved impenatrable in the second half until a scintillating break by England’s Tom Bowen forced a great tackle from Vilimoni Koroi, but the men in white managed to recycle well and presented the ball for Ollie Lindsay-Hague to crash over for the the winner.
The home crowd got behind their Australian side for the second semi-final of the day and despite Kwagga Smith going over for the Blitzboks, Tom Anstee broke away to score and raise the hopes of the energetic crowd in Sydney. Senatla, the current top try scorer in the series with 32, dotted down to make it 12-5 at the break.
Australia battled back but their discipline cost them in the second period; two men in the sin-bin led to tries from Chris Dry and Smith again to send the Blitzboks heading towards a second final in as many weeks, 26-12 the final score.
The quarter-finals began under the sweltering Sydney morning sun as Argentina came up against the undefeated English, who crossed for the first two tries through captain Mitchell and Burgess before Matias Osadczuk scored on half-time to leave the game 12-7. Second half tries to Alex Davis and Tom Bowen gave England safe passage to the semi-finals with a 24-7 win.
If it was hot before the second quarter-final, New Zealand and Fiji turned up the heat even futher when they went head-to-head at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday. They scored two tries apiece in the first half with Iopu Iopu-Aso and Regan Ware touching down for the All Blacks Sevens while Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Kalione Nasoko crossed for the Fijians. Sherwin Stowers gave the Kiwis the lead soon after the break before Nasoko touched down for his second to give Fiji a 21-17 lead. Game most certainly on.
But with the clock in the red, it was Sione Molia who broke the hearts of the large Fijian contingent in attendance, scoring after the siren to give New Zealand a narrow 24-21 victory and set up a clash with the English in the semi-finals.
Series leaders South Africa faced USA in the third quarter-final and fell behind as Carlin Isles crossed to give the Americans an early lead, before tries from Geduld and Chris Dry saw the South Africans ahead at half-time, 14-5. Stephen Tomasin scored next for America to cut the deficit to four points before Senatla touched down for the seventh time this weekend to seal a 21-10 win.
Unbeaten Wales were up next against hosts Australia and with the boisterous home crowd against them, they fell behind as two tries to Henry Hutchison and one to Alex Gibbon saw the locals to a 19-0 lead at half-time. The second half was a closer contest as the Australians only managed one try but their defence completed a shut-out, as they eased to a comprehensive 26-0 win and set up a semi-final clash with South Africa in their home series.
The series now moves to Las Vegas next month for the fifth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which again joins up with the women’s series.
– African News Agency (ANA)