Mon 27 Sep 2021 | 10:14

BlitzBoks crowned World Series champs

BlitzBoks crowned World Series champs
Mon 27 Sep 2021 | 10:14
BlitzBoks crowned World Series champs
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DAY TWO WRAP: Under a bright blue sky in Edmonton, the Blitzboks win their second successive gold medal and celebrate a fourth Series title overall.

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Leading try scorers, leading points scorers and winners of every single game across both weekends, South Africa finished the World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 as deserved champions.

The Blitzboks backed up their win in Vancouver last week to take the second tournament of the shortened Series in Edmonton, securing a second gold medal with a 24-12 victory over Great Britain in the final.

South Africa’s fourth Series title had already been wrapped up before then, thanks to a 33-7 defeat of Vancouver finalists Kenya in the Cup semi-final. Kenya bounced back to win the bronze medal after hosts Canada put up a real fight, while the result of the day went to Germany who claimed fifth place after an extra-time win over USA.

Absent Olympic champions Fiji and other Series powerhouses New Zealand and Australia will have taken note of the Blitzboks’ performance ahead of the start of the 2022 Series and no doubt been impressed by the way Neil Powell’s new-look squad came together so quickly.

In a demonstration of their strength in depth, Series debutants like Ronald Brown took to the big stage straight away and they will go into the opening tournament of the 2022 Series in Dubai riding the crest of a wave.

“It has been an awesome two weeks, we came here with a mission to stick together and focus on our system and build on that so I am very proud of the team,” said Muller du Plessis, South Africa’s star performer in Edmonton with 11 tries – the most by a Blitzboks player since Seabelo Senatla crossed that many times in Dubai in 2016.

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Du Plessis struck twice in the first half of the final to help the Blitzboks overcome an uncharacteristically sloppy start which saw them reduced to six men following Selvyn Davids’ sin-binning.

Great Britain wasted no time in capitalising on their one-man advantage to score through Robbie Fergusson but the setback only seemed to galvanise the Blitzboks who responded through Muller, after a good break Christie Grobbelaar, moments before they were restored to their full complement of players.

Captain Siviwe Soyizwapi then latched onto a well-weighted kick through from Brown to score the first of his two tries. But du Plessis beat Soyizwapi to the double with an arcing run to the line as South Africa went into half-time holding a 17-7 advantage.

Soyizwapi joined du Plessis in reaching double figures for the tournament with his second as South Africa pulled further clear and effectively ended Great Britain’s hopes of becoming the first British side to win a Series tournament since Scotland triumphed in London in 2017.

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No-one told Tom Bowen that the game was dead though, and the winger raced in for his 99th Series try and almost brought up his century, only to be dragged into touch by du Plessis two metres out.

That was the last real threat to the Blitzboks’ line, which was only breached four times in the entire tournament, and that defensive prowess aligned to their attacking ability make them a force to be reckoned with no matter the opposition.

“We normally have one game in the tournament where we make too many mistakes and probably this last one was this game for us but, again, with the new guys we have in the team, I am very happy with the performance over the two weeks,” said Blitzboks head coach Neil Powell.

Canada take bronze

Canada were chasing their second bronze medal at home after winning in Vancouver in 2020 and when Jake Thiel brought them level with Kenya at 14-14 at the start of the second half, it looked game on.

However, the Shujaa’s big-name players, Willy Ambaka and the ultimate showman, Alvin Otieno, took the wind out of their sails with 55-metre runs to the line straight from kick-off.

Otieno had already got his name on the scoresheet in the first half along with Nelson Oyoo, while another veteran Billy Odhiambo rounded off the scoring in a 33-14 win.

As a team, Canada are at a different stage in their development but the performances of players like Thomas Isherwood and Brennig Prevost, who converted tries from Alex Russell and Jake Thiel, point to a bright future.

Kenya had found themselves in the bronze medal match after losing out to South Africa in the first-ever Cup semi-final meeting between the teams.

A repeat of last week’s final ended in a similarly emphatic win for the Blitzboks. As hard as they tried, Kenya had no answer to the blistering Blitzboks who secured the Series title with a 33-7 victory.

Kenya conceded a try to the prolific du Plessis after just 13 seconds but refused to wilt like in the Vancouver final and dominated possession for the next three minutes. But against the run of play, Soyizwapi found his way over and then added another before Brown dotted down. Jeff Oluoch ensured Kenya didn’t end the match scoreless.

Meanwhile, Canada were denied a first home Cup final appearance by Great Britain.

Great Britain suffered an early blow when Max McFarland limped off with a knee injury in the first minute. The Scot had eight tries to his name in Edmonton – one short of his previous best in a single Series tournament – when his involvement was cut short.

Super-sub Bowen came on and was a constant livewire in attack as he chased the three tries he needed for his Series century as well as making telling contributions in defence.

Briefly, at the start of the second half, Canada led 7-5 after Andrew Coe’s try was converted but tries from Luke Treharne, Fergusson and Bowen settled the contest before Brennig Prevost scored a consolation at the death.

Source: World Rugby & SA Rugby

 

PV: 13
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