The Springbok Sevens moved to the top of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings despite suffering a heart-breaking 24-21 loss to arch rivals New Zealand in the final of the Wellington Sevens on Sunday morning (SA time).
New Zealand scored three tries in the last two minutes to clinch another epic final battle between the two rugby superpowers at the Westpac Stadium. South Africa had the impressive Rosko Specman in the sin bin for much of that time, while they were also called back from scoring after Seabelo Senatla’ pass to Cheslin Kolbe was called forward by the referee.
The South Africans collected 19 valuable points and they now have a two point lead on top of the league standings after collecting 54 points in the three rounds so far. Round four of the World Series will be staged in Sydney next weekend.
Captain Phillip Snyman and Specman scored a try each while Akira Ioane replied for New Zealand to make the halftime score 14-7 in South Africa’s favour. Seabelo Senatla scored another converted try for the Blitzboks after Francois Hougaard had latched onto a failed offload by Sonny Bill Williams.
However, with Specman yellow carded for a professional foul, replacement Rieko Ioane (2) and Joe Webber crossed the South African line to snatch a dramatic comeback win for the Kiwis.
Afterwards, Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, praised his team’s effort: “I’m obviously disappointed with the result, but I am very happy with the performance of the squad. They gave everything out there today and I am proud of their efforts,” said Powell.
The final was a rematch of Saturday’s thrilling pool clash which New Zealand won after the final whistle thanks to a trademark SBW offload, which allowed the Kiwis to score the winning try.
After their quarterfinal win over Australia, the South Africans then delivered a brilliant team effort in their semi-final clash against the prolific Fijians, scoring five tries in a memorable 31-0 victory.
Powell later described the outing against Fiji as a special performance. “To beat Fiji in that manner and to keep them scoreless is unbelievable. The boys deserves credit for that special performance,” added Powell.
The Springbok coach was also very pleased with the depth of his squad, especially after Justin Geduld did not play at all on Sunday while Juan de Jong also hobbled off in the final with a calf injury.
“It was important for us to see how we would perform without regulars such as Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok. We also lost Ryno Benjamin on the eve of the tournament, so it was very pleasing to see the guys playing so well in Wellington,” said Powell.
Excellent defence and clinical finishing frustrated the Fijians throughout their semi-final and the islanders’ ill-discipline cost them two yellow cards.
Senatla and Kolbe each scored a try, and after the interval, Kwagga Smith and another Kolbe try sealed a deserving win for the South Africans.
Earlier in the day the Springbok Sevens defeated Australia 26-14 in their quarterfinal to book a place in the last four. Two tries by in-form speedster Senatla and one apiece by Chris Dry and Snyman clinched a comfortable win for South Africa.
Fiji defeated England 24-12 in the playoff for third place after they were 14-5 up at halftime.
The abbreviated World Series standings after round three in Wellington:
- South Africa 54 points
- Fiji 52
- New Zealand 47
- England 41
- Argentina 41
- United States 39
Thanks to SA Rugby Union