Never say die SA win Edinburgh Sevens

31 May 2011

The South African Sevens team produced a comeback for the ages to capture the Edinburgh Sevens on Sunday. With the win, they claimed back-to-back victories for the first time since 2008, when they won in Dubai and George.

In the dying seconds of the final, Sibusiso Sithole powered his way to a brilliant solo try to lift the Springbok Sevens to a magnificent and stunning 38-35 victory over Australia.

The win was one of the most remarkable turnaround performances by any team in an HSBC Sevens World Series Cup final.

Down to only two fit reserves due to injuries, South Africa fought back from being 7-28 down to snatch victory at the very end of an epic Cup final at Murrayfield, the spiritual home of Sevens rugby. It followed on their victory in London last week.

Second overall

With their third victory of the season, the team finished second overall on the HSBC Sevens World series standings with 140 points, 16 behind champions New Zealand.

Branco du Preez (ankle) and Neil Powell (rib) were lost to injuries on Saturday, the first day of the tournament.

On Sunday, South Africa had to play the final without their inspirational skipper Kyle Brown (ankle), while Paul Delport was carried off on a stretcher midway through the first half of the absorbing first half. He sustained a concussion and his condition was described as stable afterwards.

Final

Australia, who lost 19-5 against South Africa in the pool stages on Saturday, started in determined fashion and scored three tries to one to lead 21-7 at halftime.

Bernard Foley, with two, and Jonathon Lance scored for the Aussies, while Steven Hunt dotted down South Africa’s only try. Delport then injured himself when he rushed to stop an attack, injuring his head in the process.

Henry Vanderglas scored from the restart to stretch the Aussie lead to 21 points at 28-7. Frankie Horne and Bernado Botha reduced the deficit to 28-19, but then scored what appeared to be the match winner for Australia. South Africa, however, had other ideas

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Hunt scored again in the corner before Sithole gathered the ball from a ruck, and with the sound of the siren in the background, powered his way through the defence wide on the right to score the match-winning try.

Strong late season form

In some ways, the end of the World Series came too soon for South Africa. The team played in four of the last five World Series tournament finals and scooped three titles: in Las Vegas, London and Edinburgh.

Paul Treu, the SA Sevens coach, described the fight-back as unbelievable. “Australia made a good start and we had to give it everything we got. We were severely disrupted by the injuries and apart from the injured players, Frankie [Horne] also shouldered on bravely despite hurting his knee early on Saturday.

“What can you say after a performance like that? They refused to give in and South Africa can be very proud of these young men,” he smiled.

Earlier results

On Saturday, South Africa finished unbeaten and top of their pool, while on Sunday they started brightly against a powerful Samoa outfit, scoring an impressive 28-5 win as Hunt, Afrika, Brown and Sithole all scored tries.

Wales offered greater resistance in the semi-finals and, much like last week, ran the Springbok Sevens very close to almost register their first win in 23 attempts against South Africa, who won 22-19 at the end of a gruelling encounter.

HSBC Sevens World Series final standings

    1. New Zealand 166 points
    2. South Africa 140
    3. England 127
    4. Fiji 122
    5. Samoa 120

Top point scorer
Cecil Afrika (SA) 385

Top try scorer
Cecil Afrika (SA) 40

Source: SA Rugby