27 January 2014
South Africa mounted a successful defence of their Las Vegas Sevens title, beating New Zealand 14-7 in the Cup final on Sunday to claim victory in the USA for the third time in the past four years.
The victory was the Blitzbokke’s fifth successive win over the New Zealanders in Cup finals in the HSBC World Sevens Series.
At half-time the teams were level at 7-7 after Scott Curry opened the scoring for the Kiwis and Branco du Preez replied for the Springbok Sevens.
Werner Kok, who excelled in only his fourth tournament, scored the winning try soon after replacing the injured Justin Geduld in the second half.
The victory helped South Africa into a slender lead on the HSBC Sevens World Series standings. They trailed New Zealand by two points at the start of the tournament, but after taking out the title in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas the Blitzbokke top the log on 78 points, just one ahead of the men in black.
With strong support from an appreciative crowd at the Sam Boyd Stadium, the Springbok Sevens team and management found themselves mobbed by jubilant fans on the field immediately after the final whistle had sounded.
The key to the team’s success was their defence. They conceded only two tries throughout the tournament as they went unbeaten through the pool and knockout stages. They also overcame the loss of ace try scorer Seabelo Senatla, who was ruled out of action because of an ankle injury, while Geduld and speedster Sampie Mastriet both left the Cup final action early because of injury.
After clinching the title, a jubilant South Africa Sevens coach, Neil Powell said: “It was very intense and what a gutsy performance that was from the guys. They all played for each other. Just the way they showed the commitment was tremendous.
“There is still a long way to go to keep us at the top,” he added, looking ahead.
Under the guidance of Powell, who took over the coaching duties from the long- serving Paul Treu at the beginning of the season, South Africa have now reached three Cup finals in a row this season, and won successive titles in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas.
Earlier, South Africa crushed Argentina 36-0 in the quarterfinals before seeing off a strong Samoa team 14-0 to book their place in the final against New Zealand.
In their group games, they thumped Wales 43-0, beat eventual third place finishers Canada 29-0, and ran out 19-7 winners over Kenta.
The next round of the HSBC Sevens World Series takes place in Wellington, New Zealand, on 7 and 8 February at the Westpac Stadium. The Blitzbokke have been drawn in Group A with England, Wales and Portugal.
SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby