South Africa denied Fiji back-to-back titles in the Singapore tournament of the World Rugby Sevens series with a dramatic 20-19 victory in the Cup final at the National Stadium.
It was a dramatic fightback after the Blitzboks trailed 0-19 at halftime but then scored 20 unanswered points to complete the most remarkable of comebacks in the Cup final.
“They really never gave up. We spoke at half-time about the importance of scoring first after the break and that happened and the guys kept on playing,” said coach Neil Powell afterwards.
“It was important that we held onto the ball in that second half. The young players are really coachable and listened to all the advice and instructions and it worked out for us in the end. They did score first, although only after two minutes, but that gave the belief the needed momentum. I am almost speechless on how they pulled this one back.”
Powell said his team struggled in the first halves of their matches at the tournament but played very well after the break. “We were often our own worst enemies, but once we got things going, we really played well.”
“It was tough this week, the guys were down after the disappointing show there (in Hong Kong). Their comeback makes me very proud,” said Powell, who also praised his management.
“We needed to make sure the guys had energy this weekend and changed our approach to achieve that. It worked well and I need to compliment the management for their roles in getting the guys ready to go again.”
Captain Shakes Soyizwapi, who missed the final due to a knee injury, said it was hard to describe the emotions after their amazing comeback.
“They guys kept on believing in our structure and by doing so, their natural abilities came to the fore. They expressed themselves. I kept believing, this is what we were working for. It was incredible,” said Soyizwapi, who also praised the younger players in the squad.
“The newer guys learned so much, but they also gave so much effort. We will all be better because of this experience.”
♦ England claimed the bronze medal with a vital victory over the USA, who remain series leaders, on a weekend when none of the top teams were able to take the opportunity to secure a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The tournament results mean that South Africa remain in fourth place in the world series standings with 121 points but opened up a 14-point cushion over fifth-placed England with 107 points and two tournaments remaining.
Fiji, now on 142 points, cut the USA's lead at the top of the standings to just three points with New Zealand sitting in third on 130 points. The top four at the end of the 2019 series will qualify directly for Tokyo 2020.
From reports issued by SA Rugby Communications and World Rugby