On a third successive day where the unpredictable nature of sevens rugby was emphasised, the Blitzboks won their first tournament of the 2018/19 World Cup Sevens series and their first in three finals in Vancouver.
Gone was the stuttering that manifested in the previous tournament where the large percentage of young inexperienced players felt their way in the series. They surprisingly beat first-placed USA in their Pool A match to win the pool, then accounted for Argentina in the quarterfinal and convincingly beat Fiji in the semi-final.
Without much possession hung on against another surprise in the tournament, France, who dominated possessions to win the final 21-12. France finished a lowly 15th of the 16 teams in the series the previous week in Las Vegas.
The Blitzboks also moved back into fourth spot on the standings after their impressive showing in Vancouver with these victories, and their jubilation is captured in the above photo by Mike Lee - KLC photos for World Rugby
♦ SA Rugby Communications reports that it was the first tournament win for the Blitzboks since June last year, when they clinched the Paris Sevens and subsequently the World Series.
South Africa lost previous finals in Vancouver in 2016 and 2017, but this time around, made sure they leave for home with the gold.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was very happy with the outcome of the weekend.
“One could feel the team was getting together and bonding,” said Powell.
“It was never about the potential of the players, rather the ability to play for and with each other. All week I could feel the difference.
“I felt that the squad needed some time to combine and mould as a team and it happened this weekend. The players trusted our system and each other. It is amazing how 13 players, all from different cultures and backgrounds, can combine under one flag and for one jersey.”
Powell was equally pleased with the performances on the field.
“It was a tournament where we really showed good defensive discipline, but our attack was equally impressive, especially against Argentina and Fiji in the playoffs earlier today.”
♦ In the final, the French scored first when Pierre Lakafia crashed over for a 5-0 lead. Impi Visser scored for South Africa and with Selvyn Davids converting, they edged ahead 7-5.
That lead was extended in the 10th minute with a long run by Davids, who scored in the corner. He converted from that tough angle to extend the lead to 14-5.
Werner Kok also added his name to the scoresheet with a strong run down the line to add more pressure on the French.
The French came back with a converted try of their own with three minutes left, but South Africa's defence held out for a historic win.
♦ Earlier in the day, South Africa outplayed Fiji 31-12 in the Cup semi-finals and defeated Argentina 33-12 in their Cup quarterfinals. In both those matches, South Africa delivered very strong second half performances.
South Africa started the tournament fifth on the series log, a point behind England in fourth. This win pushed them nine points clear of England again and back into fourth and Olympic qualification contention.
The top six teams on the log are:
- USA 113
- NZ 106
- Fiji 101
- South Africa 89
- England 80
- Australia 65
- Selvyn Davids was named Player of the Final. He also scored the most points in the Canada tournament (59), including five tries. JC Pretorius (five) shared the try-scoring with Davids, with Muller du Plessis and Siviwe Soyizwapi scoring four each.
Davids and Pretorius were also named in the tournament Dream Team.
The team will arrive back in Cape Town on Wednesday. The next tournament in the World Series takes place in Hong Kong from 5-7 April.