The Springbok Sevens recovered from a slow start to score an emphatic 31-7 win over France on Friday afternoon (SA time) in their quest to capture a first ever Hong Kong Sevens title.
After leading just 14-7 at halftime and looking somewhat subdued, the South Africans found their rhythm in the second stanza to score three more tries for a convincing win over the unpredictable but talented French side.
Kyle Brown, the Springbok Sevens captain, left the field midway through the first half after he took a hard blow to the head.
Brown was replaced by Philip Snyman, but the good news is that he passed a concussion test while the match was still in progress.
Brown was therefore cleared to play again.
Wing Seabelo Senatla opened the scoring for the South Africans but Virimi Vatakawa leveled the score 7-7, before Junior Bok Justin Geduld sliced through several defenders to score.
That try gave the Blitzboks a halftime lead of 14-7.
The second half was barely a few seconds old when speedster Senatla scored his second try of the match to stretch SA’s lead to 21-7, crashing into the advertising boards in the process.
Influential playmaker Cecil Afrika, who missed the Tokyo Sevens because of a hamstring injury, made an immediate impact after coming on as replacement, and scored with virtually his first touch of the match.
Super-sub Werner Kok then crashed over for South Africa’s fifth try with a typical powerful run for a final score of 31-7 in favour of the Blitzboks.
Neil Powell, the SA coach, said afterwards: “France played very well and kept us out with good defence and clever play in the first half. We were a bit more composed after halftime and the guys took the opportunities which came our way,” said Powell.
Australia beat Spain 28-14 in the other Pool B fixture on Friday.
The Springbok Sevens play against Spain early on Saturday morning and then complete their Pool B fixtures against Australia.
Players mark Keep Rugby Clean Day
Friday in Hong Kong was also 'Keep Rugby Clean Day' with all 28 teams wearing T-shirts and showing their support for the IRB's ongoing education campaign around drug-free rugby and the dangers of doping.
South Africa Sevens star, Cecil Afrika, said: "I am extremely proud to be one of the IRB’s anti-doping ambassadors, and I can say with confidence that all the players here in Hong Kong have worn their 'Keep Rugby Clean' T-Shirts with pride. Rugby is one of the leading sports in terms of its anti-doping programme and education and we all feel very strongly about this. It is important that we play on a level playing field and ensure the integrity of our game."
Friday 28 March
Result: South Africa 31 - 7 France
Saturday, 29 March
06h40 - South Africa vs Spain
12h54 - South Africa vs Australia