15 February 2011
The South Africans Sevens rugby team captured a first HSBC Sevens World Series tournament title since April 2009 with a 24-14 victory over Fiji in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens early on Monday morning (South African time).
In the same season that they won in Adelaide, 2008/09, South Africa won the overall series title, but there were slim pickings for the team last season and they slipped all the way to sixth in the overall standings. After Monday’s victory, they are in fifth spot this season in what appears to be a battle of five teams for the overall honours.
Interviewed by the International Rugby Board (IRB) afterwards, South African coach Paul Treu said the Las Vegas victory was invaluable because it would instill a belief in the squad’s younger players that they could win titles.
‘I think it’s awesome’
“I think it’s awesome, and especially for a young player like Paul Jordaan, to come on board and win a tournament on his first tour, those are the kind of memories that we would like to build,” said Treu.
“For all the youngsters back at home, hopefully it’s going to be an inspiration to them, that anything is possible. They just have to keep working harder and give themselves a chance.”
While a victory in the USA, the fourth of eight stops in this season’s World Series, was welcome, Treu also said it forms part of a bigger picture.
He explained: “The long-term goal for us is about keeping building for the Olympics. We want to be ready in 2014 when it comes to the Olympic qualifying tournaments and we’re going to keep exposing the youngsters to international standards.”
The return of playmaker Cecil Afrika to the South African team was a massive boost for the side and Treu acknowledged Afrika’s contribution, saying: “He’s so difficult to defend against because he’s got an eye for the gap, and once he’s seen it, he backs himself.
“He’s been instrumental in our attack, so have Branco du Preez and Bernardo Botha, but this was really a massive team effort,” he concluded.
‘I can’t really stop smiling!’
Captain Kyle Brown was thrilled to claim some silverware. “I can’t really stop smiling. Unbelievable! It’s been a lot of hard work,” he reckoned.
“The boys played like a family. They stuck together. Times were tough. In defence, especially, you can see that the attitude out there has changed. When everyone buys into the plan and sticks together, they really work for each other.”
Fiji has been South Africa’s nemesis in recent seasons and so victory over the islanders, who had ousted New Zealand in the semi-finals, was especially sweet for the Blitsbokke.
They got on top early through Afrika, who worked a nice switch move with Du Preez before a neat side-step took him clear and over the tryline. He converted his own five-pointer.
Du Preez was then put into space wide on the right and dotted down just before the Fijian cover defence bundled him out.
Fiji hit back through Watisoni Votu, but were made to work hard for their points. Mitieli Nacagilevu added two points with a successful conversion.
With half-time nearing, Chris Dry rounded the Fijian defence on the left with an inside, outside swivel of the hips and injection of pace. Afrika added the conversion to put South Africa 19-7 clear at the break.
In the second half, Fiji cut into South Africa’s lead with a try by Nacagilevu, but a reply by Bernardo Botha, who wrestled his way over the line with two Fijians hanging on to him moved the Blitsbokke more than two scores clear again.
Earlier, in South Africa’s pool matches, they crushed Japan 35-0, outplayed the USA 27-5, and drew 7-7 with overall series defending champions Samoa.
They followed that up with a 19-14 victory over Australia in the quarterfinals and a 17-10 win over England in the semi-finals.
OVERALL SERIES STANDINGS
(After four of eight tournaments)
- 1. England 80
- 1. New Zealand 80
- 3. Fiji 64
- 3. Samoa 64
- 5. South Africa 56
- 6. Australia 36
- 7. Argentina 24
- 8. Wales 18
- 9. Kenya 12
- 10. Scotland 8
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