The Springbok Sevens lost 33-26 to Fiji in a thrilling, epic Tokyo Sevens Cup Final after the Pacific Islanders managed to score a brilliant and trademark long range winning try with just second remaining on the clock.
However, despite the disappointment of losing their tournament title in what must surely rank as one of the all-time great HSBC Sevens World Series Cup Finals, the South Africans did manage to regain the lead on the overall standings.
With just three more tournaments remaining, the Springbok Sevens have a slender two-point lead over New Zealand, who lost to 21-12 to England in the playoff for third place.
South Africa now leads the World Series log on 116 points, closely followed by New Zealand (114), Fiji (95), England (85) and Australia (72). Round seven of the World Series, a three-day event, will take place next weekend at the Hong Kong Football Stadium.
In a breathtaking Cup Final, it took just one minute for Fiji to score first when Emosi Mulevoro dotted down. He was quickly followed by Samisoni Viriviri as Fiji stretched their lead to 12-0.
However, the Blitzboks refused to give up and their captain, Kyle Brown, led the comeback with a try. He was then followed by Stephan Dippenaar, who dotted under the posts to give them a slender 14-12 lead.
Justin Geduld also went over to stretch the SA lead to 19-12, but Fiji hit back just before halftime to level matters at 19-all when teenager Benito Masilevu turned on the speed to outsprint the defence.
After the break Geduld, who had a good tournament, drew the defence, chipped over and scored after a quickly taken penalty. This try gave South Africa a 26-19 lead, but once more it was Fiji who produced some magical attacking play to level matters when veteran Setefano Cakau scored under the sticks.
The Blitzboks tried their best and Fiji kept them at bay with some desperate defence.
However, in the end it was a moment of brilliance that allowed Fiji to finally halt the stubborn SA effort with a try right on the stroke of fulltime. Pio Tuwai flicked a ball under pressure and overhead to Waisea Nacuqu, who raced 60 meters to score the winning try.
Comment by Neil Powell
The Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, who demanded a much better performance from his team on day two, said he was extremely proud of their efforts.
Said Powell: “We made one or two errors which allowed them (Fiji) to score from virtually their own try line. We spoke about it before the time, that we could not allow Fiji any space, give silly offloads or to make the game loose.
“The guys deserve credit for bouncing back after they scored two early tries, and for keeping the structure just when it seemed that they would run away with it. We will now regroup and hope to improve on overall performances next week in Hong Kong,” explained Powell.
After routine day at the office on Saturday, when they won all three of their pool matches, South Africa played much better to defeat England in the semi-finals.
The two teams performed a strong arm wrestle in the first period of the first half. However, it was the Blitzboks who broke free and managed to score through Chris Dry who crashed over in the corner.
Livewire scrumhalf Branco du Preez then added another try just before the end of the half to stretch the lead to 12-0. The Springbok Sevens kept England at bay with some huge hits in the tackle and they also kept their mistakes to a minimum when in possession.
Substitute Werner Kok sealed the match for the South Africans when he broke free to score near the corner flag.
Fiji ended New Zealand’s ambition to win a second successive title after their Cup final win in Wellington with a bruising 17-12 win over the Kiwis.
Earlier on Sunday morning, the Springbok Sevens had to work hard for their 17-12 quarterfinal win over the USA. Seabelo Senatla had an outstanding match and a hand in two of the three tries.
He scored the first one after just 18 seconds and was on hand to send an excellent pass to Kok for the winning try. Geduld was the other try scorer.
Final results at the Tokyo Sevens on Sunday:
Shield: Argentina 26, Samoa 0
Bowl: Wales 28, Scotland 0
Plate: Australia 17, USA 12
Playoff for third place: England 21, NZ 12
Cup Final: Fiji 33, South Africa 26
The current World Series log standings after six rounds:
1. South Africa 116 points
2. New Zealand 114
3. Fiji 95
4. England 85
5. Australia 72