DURBAN – The Blitzboks resoundingly bounced back from their tenth position finish in the New Zealand Sevens to secure a silver medal in the Sydney Sevens on Sunday, narrowly losing 10-12 to Fiji in a tense final.
In the process, the South Africans have closed the gap on New Zealand in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series log and consolidated second spot.
The Kiwis are still top of the log with 76 points after four tournaments, with South Africa nine points behind on 67. France (56), who started the weekend in joint-second spot with South Africa, dropped to third, followed by England (54), Fiji (53) and USA (47).
The final was played in heavy rain, and this resulted in a tight affair which saw Fiji scoring twice in the first half. After Fiji scored an early converted try, JC Pretorius responded to cut the lead to just two points.
Fiji extended the lead with a well-worked move from a line-out to lead 12-5 at the break.
Zain Davids scored out wide late in the second half, but that still left the Blitzboks two points short and hard as they tried, the final scoring act did not come, and Fiji could celebrate.
Earlier in the day, South Africa qualified for the final by beating USA 19-12 and dominating Samoa 32-0.
The performance of the Blitzboks proved a huge improvement from the previous weekend, and coach Neil Powell expressed his satisfaction with the overall effort, but said the result in the final hurt.
“That one hurts a bit, because we did not sustain the excellent form we displayed in the first four matches of the tournament. We had some basics letting us down in the final and that was disappointing. We paid the price, unfortunately.”
Powell paid credit to Fiji: “I thought we had control of the match till the end, but Fiji exploited our mistakes and they won. Our guys really deserve credit with their effort this week. The final was a negative, but there are so many positives for us from this weekend,” the coach pointed out.
“We will be going into the next tournament with some confidence and momentum and that is a good thing.”
Blitzboks captain, Stedman Gans, said the mistakes in the final will be remembered.
“We improved a lot from Hamilton. The final was a let-down, though, and we will have to look at ourselves again, because we lost due to our mistakes. As a squad, we are improving and I think we are on the up, which is a good thing.”
The Blitzboks will return to their home base in Stellenbosch today, ahead of the Los Angeles Sevens on 29 February and 1 March, followed by Vancouver a week later.