Blitzboks back on top of the podium
The Blitzboks returned to the top of the podium for the first time since Paris in June last year by winning the Vancouver leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in the early hours of Sunday morning.
South Africa‚ who have endured an indifferent campaign as coach Neil Powell rebuilds the team after losing key players in the off-season‚ beat surprise finalists France 21-12.
The Blitzboks had to come from behind in the final after France struck first in the first-ever meeting between the sides in a World Series final.
Impi Visser scored for South Africa and with Selvyn Davids converting gave SA the lead that they didn’t relinquish again.
A long run by Davids‚ who scored in the corner‚ extended the lead to 14-5 after his second successful conversion.
Werner Kok also added his name to the scoresheet with a strong run down the line and although France scored a late try‚ the Blitzboks held firm to record their first title of the campaign.
The 22 log points SA earned saw them move up to 89 on the standings and into fourth place. Crucially they are nine points ahead of fifth-placed England in the race for a top four place‚ which brings automatic qualification for 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The USA‚ who could only manage fourth in Vancouver‚ still lead the Series on 113 points with New Zealand on 106 and Fiji on 101 occupying second and third respectively.
What was more impressive though was the way the youthful Blitzboks with the thrilling duo Davids and JC Pretorius in the vanguard‚ dominated their quarterfinal and semi-final.
The pair were named in the tournament’s Dream Team and Davids won the man-of-the-match award in the final. Davids was also the tournament’s leading points’ scorer with 59‚ which included five tries.
In the last eight the Blitzboks blew Argentina away by 33-12 and then they did the same to reigning Olympic Champions Fiji with a 31-12 win in the semi-final.
South Africa lost previous finals in Vancouver in 2016 and 2017.
Captain Philip Snyman said: “It was a much-needed win for our team. The boys played some fantastic rugby throughout the tournament. I’m really happy with the win and hopefully we can build on this one now.
“There’s a lot of talent in this group and back home and I can’t wait to see everyone together as it was only a matter of time before this team started to gel.
"They showed glimpses this week of what they can do and I believe there is a strong squad coming through.”
Davids‚ the HSBC Player of the Final‚ added: “We knew France were going to come for us. I wouldn’t have achieved this if it wasn’t for my team so thanks to them. We’ve a lot of youngsters but like the coach said‚ if we can gel together then anything is possible.”
Springbok Sevens coach‚ Powell was naturally very happy with the outcome of the weekend.
“One could feel the team was getting together and bonding‚” said Powell.
“It was never about the potential of the players‚ rather the ability to play for and with each other. All week I could feel the difference.
“I felt that the squad needed some time to combine and mould as a team and it happened this weekend.
"The players trusted our system and each other. It is amazing how 13 players‚ all from different cultures and backgrounds‚ can combine under one flag and for one jersey.”
Powell was equally pleased with the performances on the field.
“It was a tournament where we really showed good defensive discipline‚ but our attack was equally impressive‚ especially against Argentina and Fiji in the playoffs earlier today.”