Fightback probably one of the best in Sevens finals
“I am almost speechless on how they pulled this one back.”
Those were the words of Blitzbok coach Neil Powell after his side beat Fiji in the Singapore final yesterday to secure an epic tournament win.
The fact that they trailed 19-0 at half-time and fought back in the second half was epic, it would be for any team. The way the youngsters stood up when it mattered most was epic. And defeating Fiji twice in one tournament is epic.
It was epic
All of it. All of it was epic.
The Blitzboks, who have only won two of their 30 World Sevens Series Cup titles in Asia, scored 20 unanswered points to play the leading role in what should surely qualify as the best final of the 2018/19 Series.
Fiji looked unstoppable in the opening half as Aminiasi Tuimaba, Napolioni Bolaca and Vilimoni Botitu all converted the Islanders’ dominant play into points.
Until the break, Fiji had used their powerful defence to drive the Blitzboks backwards. Their physicality and clinical approach certainly went up a level compared to the first day, when the Fijians lost two of their Pool games.
Halfway through the encounter, the most successful team in the history of the World Sevens Series looked like they were set to retain the Singapore title they won 12 months ago, something no other side has done before.
And when the ball popped out from under youngster Angelo Davids’ arm as he rounded the Fiji defence early in the second half in what was the South Africans’ first real scoring opportunity, the prospect of Fiji going back-to-back in Singapore looked even more real.
Then came a Kurt-Lee Arendse moment and on the road to the final, there had been a few.
The 19-year-old sparked SA’s fightback, before Davids, who was named Player of the Final, made no mistakes this time and made it to the chalk that matters.
Forward Ryan Oosthuizen crossed the tryline for their third try to take the score to 19-17. And then, in the final seconds, Selvyn Davids connected a late penalty to overtake Fiji and win the title.
The Blitzboks went into the ultimate event of the eighth World Sevens Series tournament after defeating log-leaders the USA 24-12 in the semi-final after leading 12-0 at the break.
The Blitzboks scored four tries (including a penalty try) to progress to the final after beating Samoa 21-12 in the quarter-finals earlier yesterday morning.
On Day One, Powell’s team thumped Scotland and Canada 36-10 and 36-0 respectively, before concluding their Pool A proceedings against Fiji with a 17-7 win.
The Singapore result was only the Blitzboks’ second tournament win this season after a slow start to the Series.
Powell was full of praise for his squad, who started the final without their injured captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi.
“It was a gutsy performance,” said Powell.
“They really never gave up.”