Blitzbokke runners-up in Dubai Sevens

2 December 2013

The South African Sevens Rugby team turned in a strong showing at the Dubai Sevens, but fell at the final hurdle to an in-form Fiji, going down 29-17 in the Cup final on Saturday.

With injuries to Frankie Horne, Jamba Ulengo and Stephan Dippenaar, the Blitzbokke were up against it in the title-decider, facing a Fijian side that had crushed New Zealand 44-0 in the semi-finals, running in eight tries in a stunning victory.

Fiji, coached by former England coach Ben Ryan, looked a better disciplined team than in the past, and soon took control of the final. They ran in three first half tries, two by Benito Masilevu and the other by Saiminosi Viriviri, to lead 19-0 at the break.

Fought back

South Africa, however, fought back well after the break, crossing for three tries through Sampie Mastriet, Chris Dry and Cheslin Kolbe, but the Fijians added five- pointers from Waisea Nacuqu and Emosi Mulevoro to secure the title, which was, surprisingly, their first in Dubai.

After the game, South Africa’s coach Neil Powell commented: “Fiji were the better team and deserved to win. They started very positively, put us under huge pressure and really used their opportunities well.

“We knew we had to score first after the restart, gain some momentum and to put them under pressure. We tried our best, but they proved too strong in the end.

“I am very proud of the boys and now we are looking forward to build on this performance next week at home in Port Elizabeth,” he concluded.

Pool D

South Africa went unbeaten in the rest of their matches. They finished top of Pool D after a 17-7 defeat of Argentina, a 34-5 cruise against Russia and a 26-5 win over Samoa.

In the quarterfinals, the Blitzbokke faced former coach Paul Treu, who is now in charge of Kenya. A strong first half, which produced three tries, put South Africa into a 19-0 lead at the break. Kenya fought back with two tries, but a late try by Branco du Preez ensured South Africa’s progression to the semi-finals by a 21-12 margin.

England were the opposition in the last four, after a convincing 33-12 defeat of Wales. Just 16 seconds into the semi-final match, South Africa conceded a try to Mike Ellery in the left hand corner, but Cecil Afrika and Justin Geduld replied with tries converted by Branco du Preez to make it South Africa 14, England 5 at half-time.

Tom Mitchell made it interesting by going over for a converted try, but further five- pointers from Werner Kok, Cheslin Kolbe and Chris Dry secured a comfortable 26-12 win for the men in green and gold.

World Series standings

With their runner-up finish, the Blitzbokke are up to third in the World Series standings. New Zealand are top with 39 points after edging England 17-14 for third place in Dubai. Fiji are in second with 35 points, South Africa has 34 and England 32.

The next tournament in the series, the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens, takes place in Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province on 7 and 8 December.