The Springbok Sevens moved to within one point of leaders Fiji at the top of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings despite suffering a close-fought 19-14 loss against New Zealand at the inaugural Canadian Sevens tournament in Vancouver on Monday morning (SA time).
New Zealand led 14-7 at halftime and successfully starved the Blitzboks of scoring opportunities by slowing the pace of the game and controlling ball possession and territory. It was heartbreak for the Springbok Sevens, who suffered their only loss of the tournament in the Cup final following impressive performances in the pool and knockout stages.
Rosko Specman and Justin Geduld were the South African try scorers in the Cup final, while Sam Dickson, Kurt Baker and Lewis Ormond dotted down for the Kiwis.The in-form South Africans were considered the favourites to win the first Canadian event after they had beaten Wales and Fiji by convincing margins earlier in the day. They crushed Wales 31-0 in the quarterfinals and then defeated the powerful Fijians 31-19 in their semi-final encounter.
So after six rounds only two points separate the top three sides at the top of the World Series log. Fiji lead the way with 106 points, despite their shock 19-12 loss to Australia in the playoff match for third place. They are closely followed by South Africa (105) and New Zealand (104).
The next two rounds of the World Series will be staged in the Far East. The Hong Kong Sevens takes place over three days between 8 and 10 April and it will be followed a week later by the Singapore Sevens.
Neil Powell, the Springbok Sevens coach, said afterwards he was proud of the Blitzboks’ effort over the two days. “New Zealand played a good tactical game and our guys will learn from this experience. It was disappointing to lose, but I am pleased with the way we played over the entire weekend,” said Powell.
He added: “We said wanted to start from over on Sunday morning and I am very satisfied with our wins over Wales and Fiji. We also continue to give the squad members good playing opportunities as we build towards the Olympics in Brazil.”
South Africa defeated Fiji by 31-19 in a pulsating semi-final encounter to set up a Cup final clash with fierce rivals New Zealand, who qualified for the tournament decider by beating Australia 28-19.
Playmaker Geduld scored twice in the first half to hand his side a 12-0 halftime lead but Fiji stormed back immediately after the break to tie the scores. Ruhan Nel, who was earlier yellow carded, pulled the Blitzboks again in front, however, the Fijians again managed to draw level at 19-all.
But it was the Springbok Sevens who finished the match as the stronger side and this allowed Cecil Afrika and Senatla to cross over for two more tries.
Specman dotted down twice in the outstanding 31-0 victory over Wales in the quarterfinals. Speedster Seabelo Senatla opened the scoring and he was followed by Specman who scored two times in quick succession to close the first half at 21-0. Kwagga Smith collected his own chip kick and Bryan Habana also joined in the try scoring act as the South Africans scored two further tries to clinch a comprehensive 31-0 win.
Samoa won the Plate, Canada won the Bowl and Russia took home the Shield at the inaugural event in Vancouver, with a record 60 418 fans turning up over the two days to watch the first Sevens tournament to be played under a closed roof.
The top of the World Series log after rounds six in Vancouver:
1. Fiji 106 points
2. South Africa 105
3. New Zealand 104
4. Australia 90
5. United State 76
Leading try scorers:
1. Seabelo Senatla (SA, 43)
2. Savenaca Rawaca (Fiji, 30)
3. Samoa Toloa (Samoa, 30)
4. Perry Baker (USA, 29)