Three first half tries secured a 21-0 Cup final win for New Zealand over South Africa in a thrilling Wellington Sevens decider at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday morning (SA time).
The All Black Sevens snapped a five match Cup final losing streak against the Springbok Sevens and also regain their slender lead from the South Africans at the top of the HSBC Sevens World Series standings.
New Zealand now lead the World Series table on 99 points, two more than South Africa.
Earlier on Saturday, coach Neil Powell’s team qualified for their fourth successive tournament final this season thanks to identical 10-0 wins over Australia and Fiji in the quarterfinal and semis respectively. The defeat also dashed their hopes of a unique triple tournament win, a difficult feat last achieved by Samoa four years ago.
A clinical, strong performance NZ in the first half effectively sealed the match for them on a slippery and wet surface inside the Westpac Stadium. NZ were able to enjoy a 21-0 halftime lead thanks to three converted tries through Tim Mikkelson and Sherwin Stowers (2).
The hosts lost their opening group match on Friday against Fiji but then went on a scoring spree afterwards to win all their matches, scoring 178 points in the process without conceding any.
The Springbok Sevens produced a brilliant tactical display to outwit the dangerous Fijians in their semifinal clash. However, it was the home team who turned the tables and strangled the Bok Sevens in the Cup final with powerful play at the breakdown and solid defence in the midfield.
The South Africans forced a string of penalties in the last quarter of the match, but unforced errors and wrong options meant it was not going to be their day.
Although he admits that the Cup final loss against New Zealand hurts a lot, Powell had some encouraging words for his squad afterwards: “We had a hard, honest team talk on Friday evening after our loss against England and I am glad the guys responded and reacted well against Australia and Fiji,” said Powell.
The Springbok Sevens coach also mentioned the squad can be pleased with their overall performances in Las Vegas and Wellington.
“We are very pleased to have played in two Cup final and to return home with one title after a very tough three week tour,” added the coach.
According to Powell, his attacking options were limited somewhat on Saturday after two of his players were ruled out with injuries: “Stephan Dippenaar hurt his knee last night (Friday) against England and was not available for selection while Justin Geduld hurt his knee during the warm-up drills before the Australia match.
They will both undergo examinations on Monday after our return to Stellenbosch,” explained Powell.
Fiji edged out last year’s tournament winners England in a thriller to win their playoff for third place 14-12, while a last gasp kick handed Australia the plate over a gritty Canada.
Paul Treu’s Kenya lifted the Bowl after beating Scotland 24-24 while the USA defeated Spain 28-12 to win the Shield final.
The pools draw for the Tokyo Sevens on 22 – 23 March is:
Group A: New Zealand, Canada, Wales, Portugal
Group B: South Africa, Argentina, Kenya, Japan
Group C: Fiji, Samoa, France, USA
Group D: England, Australia, Scotland, Spain
The HSBC Sevens World Series standings after Round 5:
1. New Zealand 99
2. South Africa 97
3. Fiji 73
4. England 68
5. Australia 59