Cecil Afrika rises high during the Hamilton Sevens final against Fiji on Sunday. Photo: John Cowpland/www.photosport.nz

HAMILTON – The Springbok Sevens team strengthened their lead in the World Rugby Sevens Series in Hamilton on Sunday with yet another top-two finish at the New Zealand Sevens.

The Blitzboks were beaten 24-17 by Fiji in the final, but they now lead the World Series after four tournaments, and are eight points clear of New Zealand in second place and 15 ahead of Fiji in third.

The current World Series champions departed Cape Town three weeks ago in second place, but two consecutive Cup finals has edged them into the 2017/18 series lead, a good reflection on the consistency showed by the squad rocked by injuries over the last two weeks.

They lost captain Philip Snyman, and senior player Ruhan Nel to injury after the Sydney Sevens, and then Dylan Sage after day one of the inaugural Hamilton event due to the concussion.

They also faced Fiji without the services of the injured Justin Geduld and Rosko Specman, and had to play the final with only 10 fit players.

Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell was disappointed in the result of the final, but overall it was a good trip for the team and he is proud of their effort.

“That is sevens for you. We had an opportunity to score and did not, they countered and scored and then got the momentum. One or two moments like that and the game is gone,” the coach explained.

“It was a very good and gutsy performance by the team. We fought until the last minute, I cannot ask for more. We had a tough week, but the guys really stuck to their guns.”

Powell elaborated on their long-term strategy.

“We are also managing our players, as we have a big season in 2018. The decision not to risk Justin and Rosko in the final was because of the bigger picture.

“They need to be 100 percent come Las Vegas, as we are losing four players back to 15s now. Same with Philip and Rohan, who is already doing recovery after being sent back from Sydney.”

World Series Standings
1. South Africa 77
2. New Zealand 69
3. Fiji 62
4. Australia 60
5. Argentina 48

African News Agency (ANA)