Blitzboks put boot into Fiji for Wellington crown
THE SPRINGBOKS Sevens side’s 26-5 victory over Fiji in the final of the Wellington leg of the World Sevens Series gave them a number of reasons to celebrate.
Firstly, they lifted the cup – and that in itself is enough reason to pop the champagne.
Secondly, it was the Blitzboks’ first Wellington win since 2002.
And thirdly, they have now bagged two titles in three tournaments – one in Dubai and now Wellington – and this should provide an even bigger spark to their already-firing campaign.
But there were also a few other Blitzbok feats that made the win even sweeter.
The South Africans now enjoy a 12-point lead on the overall log, a 24th tournament win and Blitzboks go-to man Seabelo Senatla, has overtaken Fabian Juries as the all-time leading try-scorer in South African Sevens, while Branco du Preez (951) surpassed Juries (925) in career points and is now only behind injured teammate Cecil Afrika (1 167). And it doesn’t end there.
The Blitzboks’ six wins in Wellington resulted in their 27th win out of their 30 matches in the Series (the most by any team), while their 45-0 win over France in the quarterfinals was the biggest winning margin in a quarter-final match in the Series so far.
On day one, the Blitzboks also swept aside Japan, Australia and Fiji, and went into the knockout stages against France and Canada, who they beat 21-5, before progressing to the final, where they beat Fiji for the second time on the weekend.
But the South Africans were made to work hard at times for those impressive stats.
They fought hard to subdue a gutsy Canadian side, and the first period of the final against Fiji was also no easy task.
It was a tense start for the South Africans and Fiji managed to get the first score on the board when speedster Joeli Lutumailagi beat Senatla, who was unsurprisingly named Player of the Final, on the outside to score the opening try.
Senatla got the Blitzboks in the game when he answered with a try of his own, his record-breaking 180th one, to be exact.
The second half was also a tense affair, but two quick switch passes between Justin Geduld and Rosco Specman set up the latter for another fivepointer, after he straightened to flat-foot the Fijian defence and stretch the Blitzboks’ lead.
Ruhan Nel proved to be a potent impact player as he made full use of his opportunity as soon as he came on, cutting through defenders and stretching over to score.
Nel went over again and sealed the deal for the South Africans on the final whistle.
The Blitzboks’ performances in Wellington were built on rock-solid defence, which saw them concede only four tries on the weekend – three of which were against the Sevens maestros Fiji – and their attacking game and execution were also impressive.
After the victory, coach Neil Powell lauded his team’s determination and efforts.
“I will remember the win, but also because of the tremendous character showed by the team,” Powell said.
“The guys were tested out there today, especially the match against Canada, it was a physical one. The guys are trusting the system and the system is looking after them and as long as that happens, we should do well,” he added.
Senatla insisted that the Blitzboks’ impressive results could be put down to commitment because, according to him, they are “average” players.
“We aren’t that good. We’re pretty average actually. I think it’s the bond that we share.”