CAPE TOWN – Phew! The Blitzboks had the luckiest of escapes at the Cape Town Sevens on Sunday when a late Seabelo Senatla try saw them overcome Fiji 31-26 in the Cup quarter-finals.
The South Africans had looked down and out at 14-0 in the first half, with a penalty try (after a high tackle by Senatla, for which he earned a yellow card as well) and another touchdown by Amenoni Nasilasila putting the Fijians well in front, which left the rowdy home crowd stunned.
But Neil Powell’s team never give up, and so it proved as Werner Kok began the comeback down the left flank.
Fiji didn’t let up, though, and a missed tackle by Senatla resulted in Josua Vakurunabili go all the way to set up a 21-5 lead.
It just seemed that the island side wanted it more as they put in a number of ferocious tackles and played with much greater urgency and purpose than the Blitzboks.
But crucially before halftime, Tim Agaba produced a bit of magic down the right-hand touchline to find Senatla on his inside to bring the hosts back into it at 21-12 down at the break.
Up until that point, Senatla had largely played the role of the villain, but he made up for it by finishing in the left-hand corner to heap the pressure right back on to the Fijians, with South Africa 21-17 behind.
And despite a Kalione Nasoko five-pointer, the Blitzboks were desperate not to let down their fans.
Up stepped Kwagga Smith… The Lions star received the ball from a tap penalty, and while there didn’t seem to be a gap, Smith forced his way through in a flash to bring the spectators to their feet.
The Blitzboks were still two points behind at 26-24, but then Senatla had the final say, scoring with just a few seconds to go after the referee consulted his assistant.
It was too close for comfort for captain Philip Snyman and his team, but the Blitzboks survived to fight another day in the Cup semi-finals later on Sunday.
Blitzboks 31 – Tries: Werner Kok, Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla (2), Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Cecil Afrika (1), Geduld (2).
Fiji 26 – Tries: Penalty Try, Amenoni Nasilasila, Josua Vakurunabili, Kalione Nasoko. Conversions: Nasilasila (1), Vatemo Ravouvou (1).