The Springbok Sevens won their second USA Sevens title in three seasons after a record 40-21 win over New Zealand in a dramatic Cup Final on Monday morning (SA time) in Las Vegas.
South Africa were in stunning form in the final with Branco du Preez, back in the side after missing three tournaments because of injury, putting in a stellar performance, scoring two tries and contributing a haul of 18 points overall.
In doing, the South Africans not only registered their biggest ever Cup Final win over New Zealand, but they also reclaimed second position on the HSBC Sevens World Series log.
It was the team’s first Cup success in two years after their win in Scotland in 2011.
The injury-hit Springbok Sevens team, superbly led by Frankie Horne, bounced back in dramatic fashion after their disappointment in Wellington last weekend, where they only managed to win one of their matches.
South Africa become the fifth team to win a title this season, showing just how competitive the World Series is.
They defeated Series leaders New Zealand after leading 28-0 at half-time in a fantastic display with some superb tries.
Chris Dry (2), Warren Whiteley and Du Preez all scored converted tries in an action-packed first half. The South Africans were creative on attack and solid on defence and never allowed the Kiwis to gain any momentum.
Two more tries after the interval, scored by Du Preez and Stephan Dippenaar, stretched the SA total to 40 points and out of reach of New Zealand. The Kiwis, however, refused to give up and a late rally saw them scoring three quick tries through Pat Lam, Tim Mikkelson and Gilles Kaka.
Afterwards, SA Sevens coach Paul Treu described the achievement of his team as “a huge and gusty performance”.
“I’m just so glad for the guys. They deserve this win because they work so hard during training. We were all very disappointed after what happened in Wellington, but they showed great heart, commitment and determination to bounce back and deliver such outstanding performances against Samoa and New Zealand,” said Treu.
An emotional Paul Delport could not hide his delight after the final whistle.
“It was just tremendous fight from the boys. We said after what happened last week, that we never going to forget that. We set such a high standards for ourselves, we need to come out and perform like that every time,” said Delport,
He added: “This is huge for us. We put in so much effort back home - there are just no words to describe this winning feeling.”
Earlier in the day, South Africa won their semi-final 12-7 against defending champions Samoa thanks to a try in extra-time by speedster Seabelo Senatla after Cornal Hendricks had scored in the first half.
New Zealand also scored their winning try in extra time to beat Fiji 19-14 to advance to the final.
Samoa won their playoff for third place 36-31 against Fiji after the scores were tied at the end of normal time.
Canada lifted the Plate; France won the Bowl while Australia captured the Shield on an action-packed third day in Las Vegas.
The standings after Round 5 of the HSBC Sevens World Series:
1. New Zealand 96 points
2. South Africa 73
3. Samoa 71
4. Fiji 66
5. France 59
6. Kenya 57
Round 6 of the World Series takes place from 22-24 March in Hong Kong.