South Africa successfully defended their Las Vegas Sevens title when they defeated New Zealand 14-7 in another dramatic and tense Cup final between the two rugby rivals in the early hours of Monday morning (SA time).
The teams were tied 7-all at half-time after Scott Curry had opened the scoring for New Zealand and Branco du Preez replied for the Blitzbokke.
Werner Kok, who had an impressive tournament, scored the winning try soon after replacing the injured Justin Geduld in the second half.
The win also gave South Africa a slender lead on the HSBC Sevens World Series standings. They trailed New Zealand by two points at the start of the tournament, but a second successive win in as many World Series events in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas saw South Africa climbed to the top of the log on 78 points.
The Springbok Sevens enjoyed a lot of support from the appreciative crowd in the Sam Boyd Stadium and the entire team and management were mobbed by jubilant fans afterwards on the field immediately after the final whistle.
The victory was especially significant for the South Africans, who conceded only two tries during the entire tournament and managed to stay unbeaten in their successful march to a third win in four years in Las Vegas. They had to overcome the loss of ace try scorer Seabelo Senatla, who was ruled out of action because of an ankle injury, while Geduld and speedster Sampie Mastriet both left the Cup final action early because of injury.
Afterwards, a jubilant South Africa Sevens coach, Neil Powell, said: “It was very intense and what a gutsy performance that was from the guys. They all played for each other. Just the way they showed the commitment was tremendous. There is still a long way to go to keep us at the top.”
Under the guidance of Powell, who took over the coaching duties from long-serving Paul Treu at the beginning of the season, South Africa have now reached three Cup finals in a row this season, winning titles in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas.
The Blitzbokke previously won the Las Vegas title in 2011 and 2013.
Earlier, they qualified for the final after beating the powerful outfit of Samoa 14-0 in their semi-final clash. They defeated Argentina 36-0 in a splendid display of attacking skill and great defence in the quarterfinals.
The 16 teams now travel to Wellington in New Zealand for Round 5 of the World Series, which takes place on 7-8 February at the Westpac Stadium.
The final results in Las Vegas:
Cup: South Africa 14, New Zealand 7
3rd place playoff: Canada 22, Samoa 19
Plate: England 26, Australia 24
Bowl: Fiji 35, Kenya 0
Shield USA 31, Spain 0
The HSBC Sevens World Series Standings after Round 4:
1. South Africa 78
2. New Zealand 77
3. Fiji 56
4. England 53
5. Samoa 47