Image:SA Rugby Magazine
After the Blitzboks rallied to win Australia 10-7 in a tight Dubai 7s final on Saturday evening, both coach Neil Powell and captain Siviwe Soyizwapi hailed the team’s character.The Springbok Sevens’ JC Pretorius scored the game-winning try, breaking Australia’s resistance and giving South Africa back-to-back Dubai tournament titles at their favorite desert hunting ground. They also won three Dubai tournaments in a row, which is an uncommon feat. Powell congratulated his squad for overcoming some difficult difficulties during the week. “Dealing with Muller du Plessis and Ryan Oosthuizen’s injury was a week full of hurdles,” Powell added. “The intention was to bring in Dewald Human and Angelo Davids as replacements, but we weren’t able to do so before the international flights were shut down.” Because of the injuries, the Blitzboks only had 11 fit players at training, therefore some of the coaching staff (including Powell) had to step in and form two squads of seven players. The Blitzbok coach was ecstatic with his team’s efforts on a difficult day at the office, with late tries required to win both the semifinal and final. “Credit must go to the boys for staying focused and doing what needed to be done,” Powell said. “You never know what might happen with the next tournaments.” “Credit to Australia for a wonderful game, but I’m really happy of our players for the effort they put in,” Soyizwapi, who was in fine form on Saturday, said of his side. “We glanced back and exclaimed, ‘This is the payoff for all those breakdown and wrestling sessions in Stellenbosch’s heat.’ When you put on this shirt, character is everything, and that’s what we stand for as a team,” the Blitzbok captain continued. After taking home two gold medals from their Canadian trip in September, SA extended their amazing winning streak to 24 matches in Dubai, claiming their ninth overall title and a fourth consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament triumph. But it was far from easy. In the final, Australia fought back against the Blitzboks, leading 7-5 at halftime when Dietrich Roache converted Corey Toole’s lone try. Soyizwapi continued his hot streak by scoring his team’s first try early in the game, which went unconverted, giving Australia a two-point advantage at halftime. The Blitzboks were driven into many errors in the second half, but their defensive work kept them in the game, and it was no surprise when Ronald Brown jackaled another turnover to turn defense into a dangerous attack. The fast-paced running Pretorius, who went on to win the HSBC Player of the Final, shattered the Australian defense with a tremendous surge that set him up for the game-winning try. The Springbok Sevens team’s semifinal versus France was similarly in doubt until Pretorius scored a late try to go with a first-half brace by Soyizwapi to earn a position in the final. The final score against the French was 19-12, but the Blitzboks had to dig deep to win and go to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series final for the fourth time in a row. The Springbok Sevens qualified for the semifinals in their first game on Saturday, winning 31-19 over a difficult Kenyan team in their quarterfinal. In the second half, South Africa raced to a 31-7 advantage, but Kenya refused to give up and rallied with two late tries. South Africa currently leads the Series standings with 44 points, 10 points ahead of Argentina (34), while Australia’s score has risen to 32.
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