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Rugby | Sevens

Justin Geduld © Gallo Images

Blitzboks steal World Series crown in dramatic fashion

The Springbok Sevens team capped a memorable weekend for South African rugby as they did unthinkable and came back from a seven point deficit on the overall log to win the HSBC World Sevens Series in dramatic style.

The Blitzboks defended their crown with a 24-14 win over England in the Paris Sevens title to sneak in the back door and steal the title away from the Fijians.

To be honest, at the start of the weekend and even on day one it looked as if the Blitzboks would have been nowhere in their quest to come back from the dead, and many would have believed that Fiji already had one hand on the title after their win last week in the London Sevens.

But in the true spirit of Springbok rugby, the never say die attitude that flows through this special group of players saw them overcome their own demons to power their way through to the final and then play the perfect tactical game against a tough England side to win both the tournament and the World Series.

It means now South Africa are back to back World Series champions in an achievement so rare that only two other teams have done it before.

It was almost unbelievable to see the drama play out in Paris on the day, especially as Fiji simply had to end better than fourth to snub out any chance the Blitzboks would have of a title.

But as fate would have it, they were drawn against England in an epic quarterfinal and watched as the English played the game of their lives to head through to the semis and leave the door a little bit open.

Still, even then the Blitzboks still had a tough task and needed to win the tournament, but Fiji’s exit meant their best finish would be fifth, and a maximum of 13 points. If South Africa finished second they would get 19 points, one less than they would need to draw level in the series.

So the Blitzboks knew by the time they took the field against Spain what they needed to do, but it hardly helped that the same demons that saw them struggle against Russia and lose to Scotland on day one came back to haunt them.

Against a plucky Spanish outfit, one of the surprises of the tournament, the Blitzboks were their own worst enemies, and were stunned when Spain scored on fulltime to level the scores at 10-all. The Spanish team missed the conversion that would have ended any debate on the World Series and the game went into extra time.

In the heated affair it was Justin Geduld who put the Blitzboks through to the semis with a tense try in extra time.

The semifinal against New Zealand was a different match and the Blitzboks controlled the game from start to finish with Dewald Human scoring twice to seal New Zealand’s fate for a 24-12 win.

Then it was all left to the final, where England were more than competitive and gave it their everything as the series came down to the last match of the 10-tournament journey.

And it looked good from the start when Werner Kok scored after two minutes. But England hit back, both times with speedster Dan Norton involved. Ollie Lindsay-Hague scored the first and Norton the second as the English went into a 14-7 lead.

The half could have ended had England kicked the ball out, but two minutes of slogging it out later and the Blitzboks had the ball, with Ryan Oosthuizen going over in the corner and Geduld levelling the scores with an excellent sideline kick.

The second half would settle it and it was Human whose fleet-footed steps found space to score a crucial try to take the Blitzboks ahead

And then with the clock ticking down, the defence became resolute, won a penalty that Geduld kicked through the posts and held firm.

England tries desperately to come back but with the dream being seconds away, the Blitzboks didn’t give an inch.

And tackled their way into the World Series title.

Human was afterwards named the man of the tournament as South Africa finished the series on top with 182 points, followed by Fiji who took silver with 180 points and New Zealand in third on 150 positions after claiming the bronze medal in Paris with a 38-5 victory over Canada in the third-place play-off.

Human was again in try scoring form in the final and was delighted to be voted Player of the Final, telling World Rugby: "It’s been a fantastic experience here in Paris. I backed myself and just enjoyed every minute on the field. We stuck to the game plan and are very happy with the win."

South Africa captain Philip Snyman added: "We wanted to go out and play some fantastic rugby and focus on what we could control. The guys played phenomenal rugby and all credit to the team. We just did the simple stuff and played with smiles on our faces today. It’s an amazing feeling representing such an amazing country and the people back home never stopped believing in us and supporting us."

The attention will now turn to the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco from 20-22 July


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