DURBAN – Blitzboks coach Neil Powell was humility personified after his team had snuck in through the backdoor to secure both the Paris Sevens and the HSBC World Series titles for the second year in a row.
Powell himself had plenty to be proud of after being named World Series Coach of the Year at a function in Paris on Sunday night, while one of his star players, Dylan Sage, was named in the World Sevens Dream team.
In another accolade for Powell’s charges, Dewald Human was named in the Paris Dream team. Human, who played for the Kings a few seasons ago, was also honoured with the Player of the Final award.
“We were graced here today,” said Powell after his team’s monumental achievement, one that was only secured in the very last match of the final day of the final tournament of the eight-month long, 10-leg series.
“You have to feel for Fiji, who won five tournaments, only to come up short by two points, but this is also a massive reward to our Springbok Sevens and SA Rugby Sevens Academy system,” Powell said. “There are so many people working so hard for this team and the squad here today rewarded all of them.”
Powell paid tribute to the 28 players used, management and all the support structures back in South Africa: “We do this for more than ourselves. The support from back home is incredible and we find support all over the world. We want to thank all.
“This is a massive credit to our system and we are all very proud to be part of it,” Powell said.
The Blitzboks defied the odds to edge out Fiji for the Series title. The Pacific Islanders seemed to have the title sewn up going into the Paris Sevens given that they had a seven-point cushion over the defending champions.
But Fiji let it slip in the first quarter-final on Sunday when they lost to eventual silver medallists England, meaning the best they could do was finish fifth, which they did. And the Fijians would have been kicking themselves as they watch the Blitzboks labour through the tournament.
The Boks were not impressive on day one, which included a loss to Scotland, and they only made it into the semi-finals on Sunday after scoring a sudden-death try well into extra time in their quarter-final against Spain.
The Blitzboks were much better in defeating New Zealand in the semi-finals and then exploded into life in the final to beat England.
The Blitzboks qualified for each of the 10 semi-finals during the series. They won in Dubai and Paris, and were runners up in Sydney, Hamilton and London. They won bronze in Cape Town, Vancouver and Hong Kong and placed fourth in Las Vegas and Singapore.