After winning five tournaments last season en route to the World Rugby Sevens Series title, it was more of the same from the BlitzBoks in Dubai this weekend as they bagged the title – for the second year running – after downing New Zealand in the final on Saturday.
Neil Powell’s men were in sensational form throughout the tournament, which culminated in them taking on their fiercest rivals, New Zealand, in a final that was hard-fought and tight, but ultimately the class and experience of the Blitzboks shone through.
An early sin-binning for a New Zealand player who went high on Branco du Preez paved the way for the Boks to open a 12-0 lead with tries by captain Philip Snyman and the twinkle-toed Seabelo Senatla. And just before the break, Kwagga Smith made it three tries in the first half to help his side to a commanding 19-0 position.
But just as the New Zealanders were punished for an indiscretion so, too, were the BlitzBoks, who lost Rosco Specman to the sin-bin soon after the resumption of play after half-time. Down to six men, Powell’s team conceded tries to Andrew Knewstubb and Scott Curry and with only a few minutes to play there was only seven points in the tie.
But as the game neared it send Blitzboks replacement Tim Agaba showed tremendous strength to power over the tryling and seal the match and tournament for South Africa.
It was the perfect start to the 2017/18 season after the success of the last year and the tonic the team needed ahead of this weekend’s second tournament in Cape Town.
Besides Senatla, who starred throughout the two days in Dubai, Werner Kok also stood out in a team that again looked well-coached, fit and happy.
Powell’s team’s defence was a hallmark of their show, but also their contesting at the breakdowns and their ability to strike from turn-over ball.
In the semi-finals earlier in the day, the BlitzBoks beat Fiji 12-7 in a tight affair, while in the quarter-finals they beat Samoa 26-10.
On day one, on Friday, the BlitzBoks shook off the rust from the off-season by getting the better of Uganda, Kenya and Canada, none of whom ever came close to really troubling the defending champions, and now are the hot favourites to again go all the way and take the title.
The Cape Town event will be contested on 9 and 10 December before a break and the resumption of the competition in early 2018.