PRETORIA – The ghosts of Hong Kong past continued to haunt the Springbok Sevens team as they were denied a maiden title in the Asian city when they were convincingly beaten 22-0 by Fiji in the final at the Hong Kong National Stadium on Sunday.
The Blitzboks have never won in Hong Kong and they came agonizingly close to shaking that monkey off their backs but faulted at the final hurdle after winning all of their pool matches against France, Kenya and Canada and also successfully negotiated their way through the knockout stages by beating New Zealand in the quarter-finals before Ruhan Nel scored an extra time try against USA in an entertaining and heart stopping semi-final.
But Neil Powell’s men were put to the sword by Fiji in the final conceding four tries as the island nation secured their third consecutive title to jump up to second spot on the overall series standings.
While Fiji controlled play and were the better enterprising side between the two, the South Africans will be disappointed in themselves for the many handling errors they committed and the lack of spark in their performance.
Fiji scored two tries in the first half to lead 10-0 at the half-time interval but struck early in the second half through a sublime try by Kalione Nasoko from a scrum before Nasoko sealed the trophy with his second try of the game a few minutes later.
"We did very well, considering the inexperience we had in our squad and the fact that we were without a number of star players," Powell said.
"We did well over the three days and managed to play five good games, but unfortunately we were just not good enough in the final. Well done to Fiji, who deserved the win. I was a bit nervous as the pool stage could easily derailed us and the cross-over was tricky. Looking back now, we did excellent and I am content with what we achieved."
The Blitzboks, though, maintain a healthy lead at the top of the standings with 145 points and 23 points ahead of Fiji and with three tournaments remaining in Singapore, Paris and London, the South Africans have a stranglehold on winning their second world championship.
England are in third spot while New Zealand are languishing in an unfamiliar fourth place with 97 points while the USA, Australia, Argentina, Scotland, Canada and Wales complete the top 10 places on the standings.
Powell’s side have now featured in all seven finals this season winning in Dubai, Wellington, Sydney and Las Vegas while losing only four matches three against England and Sunday’s final against Fiji.
As disappointing as the Blitzboks would have been with the final result they celebrated personal milestones in Hong Kong with Cecil Afrika playing in his 50th tournament while extending his career points record to 1227 and Branco du Preez became the second South African to reach a 1000 career points finishing with 1010 points on Sunday.
Blitzboks star back and former World Sevens Player of the Year Werner Kok was named the player of the tournament and was pleased with the team’s performance and believes they can build on their showing in Hing Kong ahead of the Singapore leg.
"It is never about the individual, so the team deserve this as much as I do,” Kok said.
"We did not play our best rugby in the final, unfortunately, but we can be pleased with our overall effort. There is definite room for improvement and we will travel with a lot of focus to Singapore, where we can work hard to fix those. We still have a lot to do before we can think of winning the overall series. We get another chance next weekend to rectify our mistakes and we will be back at it, working hard at that first training session in Singapore."