The Springbok Sevens team on Sunday were crowned first winners of the inaugural HSBC Cape Town Sevens after a solid 29-14 win over Argentina in an awesome final that brought down the curtain on a fantastic first tournament in South Africa’s Mother City.
It was also a third consecutive win on home soil for the Blitzboks, following wins in the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in 2013 and 2014.
The inaugural Cape Town Sevens have been declared a huge success by Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union (SARU), the two-day event drawing an official crowd of 105,900.
The Springbok Sevens were crowned champions on Sunday evening after two days of brilliant rugby by the world’s best Sevens players, making the second leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2015/16 one to remember.
Supporters from as far afield as Germany, Sweden, Singapore and Brazil travelled to Cape Town this weekend to be part of this historic event. It was the biggest South African sevens tournament yet since the inception of the World Series in 1999.
“The rugby action was of the highest standard and we hosted an event which exceeded all our expectations, with the Blitzboks’ victory the cherry on top,” said Roux.
“When all the tickets were effectively sold out more than two weeks before the tournament, we knew it would be a great event. People talked about the Cape Town Sevens and the excitement was palpable on the weekend.
“There were some teething problems, all of which were sorted out as the tournament progressed. It’s not out of the ordinary for a big event in its first year such as this one, and we’ve learnt valuable lessons which will see an overall improvement for fans and participants alike in 2016.
“I would like to thank everyone from SARU and World Rugby who worked tirelessly to make this event a success, all the volunteers, sponsors and other stakeholder.
“But above all, I would like to thank every supporter who dressed up and brought heaps of ‘gees’ to the Cape Town Stadium this weekend – you were as much part of the success as the teams.”
The victory by the hosts of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens elevated them to joint-leaders of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series log, tied on 35 points with Fiji, who won in Dubai last weekend.
The win was secured by some sublime play by the South Africans, who used the physicality of Kyle Brown, Philip Snyman, Chris Dry and later Kwagga Smith in the forward play to create space for the fast-stepping backs.
The likes of Rosko Specman, Cheslin Kolbe and Seabelo Senatla proved too fast for the determined and dogged Argentinian defence. No one created more havoc though than Justin Geduld, who was deservedly named HSBC Player of the Final.
Specman scored a brace in the first half and Senatla either side of half-time to advance the home side’s push for another title. The Pumas refused to lie down, but after Kolbe stepped past numerous defenders to send Ryno Benjamin over for the fifth and final try, the 52 000 strong crowd could start celebrating a Blitzboks win, as well as a great weekend of fun.
“We made it hard for ourselves again in the final,” victorious Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said afterwards.
“We had to improve a lot from yesterday’s performance and I am proud of the way the team responded to the pressures and expectations from a fantastic home crowd.
“I am proud of the team and want to thank all our supporters as well. I am pleased we could make up for the disappointments of day one. Argentina gave us a tough match and almost got back in, but luckily we could score that last try to edge them out.”
Brown, captain of the Springbok Sevens team, thanked the crowd for their support over the last two days.
“The way the anthem was sung and the noise they made when we had our first line-break was just incredible. That really lifted us,” Brown said.
The quarter-finals delivered some notable upsets, with not one of the four semi-finalists from last weekend in Dubai making it into the last four again. Argentina won against New Zealand, Fiji were edged by France and Kenya ended the USA’s run at the tournament.
South Africa went behind against Australia in their quarter-final, with Pama Fou scoring the first try. The Blitzboks hit their straps after that and tries by Juan de Jongh, Justin Geduld, Kwagga Smith, Philip Snyman and Seabelo Senatla confirmed the South African dominance over a tough opponent and a 26-5 win.
The Blitzboks then delivered a stunning 21-12 win over France in the first of the two semi-finals. The French shocked last weekend’s winners, Fiji, with a gutsy 17-14 win in their quarter-final to book a spot against the hosts.
They showed early intent and Pierre Lakafia had the big crowd silent in the opening minutes when he crashed his way over the line after South Africa spilled a good ball on attack. The Blitzboks struck back from the kick-off with Juan de Jongh used his deceptive step and good passing by team mates to put South Africa in the lead.
Another try, this time by Philip Snyman, extended the lead, but the real blow to French hopes came after the buzzer. The South Africans had a penalty awarded to them and opted to run, resulting in Rosko Specman scoring.
With a 21-7 lead, the French had it all to do and a try by Virimi Vakatawa opened the door for them. But solid defence kept them and resulted in South Africa reaching a fourth consecutive final on home soil.
France went on to beat Kenya in the bronze final. Samoa won the Shield, Scotland walked away with the Bowl, and last week’s Dubai winners, Fiji, won the Plate.
Apart from overall winners, the Blitzboks, Samoa won the Shield, Scotland walked away with the Bowl, and last week’s Dubai winners, Fiji, won the Plate.
Current HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings (top seven):
1. Fiji – 35 points
2. South Africa – 35 points
3. USA – 29 points
4. Argentina – 29 points
5. England – 26 points
6. France – 25 points
7. New Zealand – 25 points
South Africa will top Pool A in the next tournament, to be played in Wellington, New Zealand on 30-31 January. They will face New Zealand, Scotland and Russia in pool play.