2 December 2008
A combination of a never-say-die attitude, patience, tough defence and execution carried South Africa to victory in the Dubai Sevens at the weekend. It was the second time in three years that South Africa have taken the honours in the event.
Captain Mzwandile Stick said the unbeaten run of the Springboks on their end of season tour of the United Kingdom had served as motivation for his team; Bok coach Peter de Villiers was also on hand to present the Sevens team with their jerseys on Thursday, and then attended all their matches.
SA coach Paul Treu said: “Our preparation was really good and the players all contributed superbly. Although this is a new look team, we still have a couple of players who won here in 2006 and who were part of our success early this year in Adelaide.
“We were committed in defence and really took our chances at key moments,” he added.
The title was South Africa’s third in Dubai, after previous wins in 2003 and 2006. It was also their ninth IRB Series title in total.
They’ll have a chance to win their tenth crown over the weekend of 5 December on home soil in George. Tickets are still available for the George event through Computicket outlets.
In Dubai, after running roughshod over their opposition in pool play – beating Scotland 31-10, the Arabian Gulf 33-0, and Kenya 31-0 – South Africa dealt comfortably with Australia in the quarterfinals, recording a 19-0 shutout.
Fiji, in the semi-finals, were a much tougher proposition. The islanders tried to use their big men to drive the ball up and suck in the South African defenders before passing the ball out wide; their line-up was considerably bigger than South Africa’s, but determined defence by Treu’s charges turned the contest into a back-and-forth arm wrestle.
Just before halftime, Fiji finally broke through when Rupeni Nasinga dotted down for a try, which was converted to put the Pacific islanders 7-0 clear at the break.
The second half followed the pattern of the first half with excellent defence from both sides snuffing out one attack after another.
As time ticked down, it appeared that South Africa would bow out in the final four, but substitute Vuyo Zangqa broke from a scrum inside the Fijian 22-metre area and raced through for a try to pull South Africa within two points with only seconds remaining in the game.
Zangqa had scored out wide on the right, leaving captain Mzwandile Stick with a difficult conversion. He made it, however, to send the game into extra time to determine a winner.
In the extra period the captain once again stepped up to secure victory for his team with a sensational long distance dropped goal.
South Africa’s opponents in the final were England after they upset defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals.
With a first half performance that was almost faultless, the English ran in three converted tries to none to lead the Kiwis 21-0 at halftime.
After the break, the New Zealanders fought back with a vengeance, matching the three tries of England, but when one of those went unconverted the champions were out.
The final was another hard-fought affair, but this time around South Africa didn’t have to come from behind.
SA Rugby’s Young Player of the Year Robert Ebersohn put SA into an early lead when he cut inside and sliced through the England defence, which had been stretched by sustained attacks deep inside their half. Stick converted to increase the lead to 7-0.
Right on halftime Mpho Mbiyozo crashed over to put South Africa 12-0 in front at the break.
England replied early in the second half with a try by Tom Biggs. The SA defence, however, kept him wide in the left hand corner and the conversion failed.
South Africa were thrust onto the back foot when Paul Delport was yellow carded and England took advantage of their numerical advantage when Nicky Young scored and then converted his own try to level the scores at 12-12.
Treu’s men seemed headed for extra time again, but with only 20 seconds remaining Gio Aplon broke from a ruck inside the South Africa 22-metre area.
Turning on the afterburners, he flew down the left-hand touchline, beating the despairing dive of England’s last defender before generously passing to Ryno Benjamin, so that he could score the try.
Stick added the extras and South Africa ran out 19-12 victors.
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