South Africa won the Plate Final at the Hong Kong Sevens on Sunday afternoon (SA time) after scoring a close fought 19-14 victory over Wales.
The Springbok Sevens earned 13 valuable log points as they slipped to second on the HSBC Sevens World Series standings with just two more rounds to play in Glasgow (3-4 May) and London (10-11 May).
New Zealand won the Cup Final 26-7 against England to regain the outright World Series lead on 136 points, seven more than South Africa. Fiji remains third on 112.
Jamba Ulengo (2) and Kwagga Smith scored the tries for a severely depleted Springboks Sevens against Wales, who tested the South Africans’ resolve throughout.
Earlier on Sunday morning England beat the Springbok Sevens 14-7 to hand them their first defeat in a Cup quarterfinal this season.
That meant that SA was relegated to the Plate competition, where they defeated the USA 24-19 in the semifinals.
South Africa’s playing resources were stretched thin because of injuries to captain, Kyle Brown, Phillip Snyman (neck) and Cecil Afrika (groin strain) while Branco du Preez also received a blow above the eye against the USA and had to be replaced.
The England defeat also brought to a halt South Africa’s fine and impressive run of appearing in five consecutive World Series Cup Finals.
Furthermore, the Springbok Sevens will have to wait another year to try and win their maiden tournament title at the Hong Kong showpiece.
Afterwards, stand-in skipper Frankie Horne explained it was extremely tough to play with the assortment of injuries the team picked up over the three days.
He said: “We lost Kyle after he went off in the second minute of our first match on Friday and was then ruled out of action for the rest of the tournament as a precaution. Cecil injured his groin and Phillip was also sidelined for the last two matches because of a sore neck,” explained Horne, who has now played in an incredible 57 World Series tournaments in a row for South Africa.
Horne added: “We were down to just eight available players after Branco received a blow to the head, so it was extremely difficult for us in the end.”
According to the veteran, he is however glad the Blitzboks could gather 13 points in the end from their Plate Final win over Wales.
“Look, it was not the ideal outcome and we have now placed ourselves in a difficult position because we will have to make up seven points or more against New Zealand. It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I am glad we are not completely out of the race yet,” said Horne.
Werner Kok made a try saving tackle in the final seconds of their Plate semifinal against an impressive USA, who lost a real cliffhanger 24-19.
The Blitzboks were determined to put their loss against England in the Cup quarterfinals behind them and quickly raced into a commanding 24-0 lead. Ulengo (2) and Stephan Dippenaar (2) scored the South Africans, but the USA hit back with three tries in the second half to almost snatch the game away from the Blitzboks.
Geduld had another superb match and he was instrumental in most of the attacking play and also had a direct hand in both tries scored by Dippenaar. With time running out and the USA enjoying all the momentum, Kok made a crucial tackle to force a penalty at the breakdown as South Africa held on for nervous win.
With Brown and Afrika on the sidelines, South Africa were without two of their most influential players. Brown took a blow to the head on Friday while Afrika limped the field on Saturday with a groin niggle.
England scored first when Dan Norton stepped his way past several defenders. Geduld, who had a very good tournament, level matters for South Africa when he went over.
In the second half the Blitzboks had several opportunities to score again but handling mistakes and desperate defence by the English prevented them from adding another try. Jack Clifford then scored a long range try and England then simply absorbed the pressure to close the match out and eliminate South Africa.
The teams now head to Glasgow and London for the final two rounds.
Final results at the Hong Kong Sevens on Sunday:
Shield Final Kenya 17 Portugal 10
Bowl Final Scotland 31 France 5
Plate Final South Africa 19, Wales 14
Third place playoff Fiji 21, Australia 12
Cup Final New Zealand 26, England 7