Blitzboks confirm US love-affair with thrilling victory in Los Angeles
CAPE TOWN – The Springboks Sevens team on Monday morning – SA time – underlined their World Series pedigree when they beat Fiji in a pulsating Cup Final at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles.
The Springboks arrived at the Final after topping Pool B in Los Angeles beating Kenya (31 – 5), Canada (33 – 5) and drawing the match against Ireland (19-19).
In the Cup quarter-finals, the BlitzBoks edged hosts USA (12 – 10) before holding New Zealand scoreless (17 – 0) in the semi-finals.
In the final match at the Dignity Health Sports Park, Fiji was first out of the starting blocks, scoring three quick tries that seemingly took the wind out of the South Africans’ sails.
Trailing by 19 – 0 with one minute to go before half-time, Stedman Gans’ troops managed to score a converted try courtesy of a fine step off the right foot by the skipper to break their duck going into the half-time break. (19 – 7)
The second half was always going to be difficult against a rampant Fiji side but the BlitzBoks stayed composed to close down any possession won by the Fijians.
The exciting Angelo Davids was denied a score by an unfortunate bounce of the rugby ball a meter away from the goalline, a minute and a half into the second stanza.
Defence became as important as attack for the South Africans at this time and they showed this no better than a five-pointer by Selvyn Davids, coming from turn-over ball early in the second half.
However, Fiji showed that they were not to be outdone when their inspirational skipper Jerry Tuwai dived over in the right-hand corner shortly thereafter.
With the deficit now at 24 – 12 and under 3 minutes available, the BlitzBokke needed something special to bounce back.
With a tough penalty going against Werner Kok with 76 seconds to go, it looked like it was all over for the South Africans’ title challenge.
However, with under sixty second to go, the experienced Chris Dry – who arrived in the USA as an injury replacement only the day before – won a crucial lineout that ultimately saw the lanky Blitzbok finish off the attack with a 5-pointer.
With the clock ticking down from 20 seconds and the score at 24 – 17 in favour of Fiji, the wily South Africans decided to forgo the kick-at-goal and instead go for the restart.
To add to the drama and with 1 second to go, kicker Selvyn Davids was substituted by coach Neil Powell.
Enter the ever-wily and very experienced Branco du Preez as well as young Sako Makata.
The restart was won by the Springboks, with du Preez Sending Muller du Plessis down the left-hand tramline. The ball was swung wide to the right which ultimately led to a yellow card for Fiji’s Waisea Nacuqu. Henceforth it was seven playing six in favour of the South Africans.
The experience of Chris Dry, who calmly took the penalty was crucial for the South Africans.
The ball was sent out wide to the left where Du Preez accepted it and in the tackle, managed to place it for the try.
The dreadlocked veteran, amid heavy booing from the crowd, calmly converted his own try to even out the score at 24 apiece as the FT whistle went.
#WorldRugbySevens at #LosAngeles ! 🏉 #SouthAfrica #Conversion to #Tie #Final vs #Fiji! Our #100Club #Luxury #FieldSideSeats with a #GreatView ! #HSBC7s #Rugby7s #RugbyHitsLA #LA7s #LAsevens #HSBC @LASevensRugby #WorldRugbySeries @HSBC_Sport @WorldRugby7s @BlitzBokke pic.twitter.com/eZ0kfwdfDD— Fur_Food_Travel (@Fur_Food_Travel) March 2, 2020
One minute and thirty three seconds into over-time the referee called time which means that the ‘golden point’ – winner takes all – rule would apply after the restart.
As the rules dictate, the opposing teams’ physios did the draw and play resumed with the BlitzBokke’s physiotherapist ‘uncle’ Hugh Everson’s affable smile giving away nothing.
Following the kick-off, Fiji sent hearts aflutter, winning the extra-time sessions’ first penalty.
However, it was Dry yet again who secured the crucial turn-over for the BlitzBokke.
Dry was again on hand to send youngster Kurt-lee Arendse into the attack, who passed to Sako Makata who bulldozed his way over the whitewash for the winning try for the South Africans.
As Dry embraced Makata, the BlitzBoks' resurgence in this Los Angeles tournament was complete, reinforcing yet again the South Africans’ love-affair with the North American leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
The World Rugby Sevens Series next moves on to Vancouver for the Canada Sevens next weekend.
Half way through the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 and it's @AllBlacks7s who sit top of the standings but @Blitzboks have closed the gap to 4 after a win at the #LASevens.@fijirugby move into third place. pic.twitter.com/GoiGDG2VRi— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) March 2, 2020
Scorers for South Africa in the Cup Final:
Tries: Stedman Gans, Selvyn Davids, Chris Dry, Branco du Preez, Sako Makata (golden try)
Kicks: Selvyn Davids, Branco du Preez
BlitzBokke skipper Stedman Gans was named Player of the Final.