Bl­itzboks put boot into Fiji for Welling­ton crown

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

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.”

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