If ever there was any doubt that the Rio Olympics rugby sevens gold medal is anyone’s for the taking, ask the Blitzboks as they went down to Scotland in the final of the last HSBC Sevens Series tournament of the year in London on Sunday evening.
After having done the hard yards, both literally and figuratively, by beating last weekend’s Paris winners Samoa and arch-rivals and then series winners Fiji in the run-in to the final, the Blitzboks were blitzed themselves as unheralded Scotland won 27-26 in the final.
It was Scotland’s first ever appearance in a Cup final and they made it count with a flying finish in the last minute as South Africa seemed to have it all wrapped up.
Never mind that the Blitzboks ended second on the Series log, they would have done that in any case, but they would have been gutted by losing a match that they were odds on to win.
If ever they needed any motivation for Rio this was it!
The Scots had a 10-7 lead at the break, but South Africa overhauled them to lead 26-15 with two minutes to play. Two late tries stunned the South Africans though.
‘We are very disappointed in the way we finished it here tonight,’ captain, Philip Snyman, said afterwards. ‘Well done to Scotland who never stopped playing. We were caught napping at the end and paid the price.
‘We also made too many errors. That said, we made the final and finished second overall, so are keen to improve on that with the Olympics the next aim for us.’
Snyman applauded Fiji for winning the series. ‘They needed to slip up early, but unfortunately for us, they did not, so congratulations to them. It was still a great year for us, but there was one of two wins that escaped us and had we claimed them, our lives would have been made much easier. I am still very proud of the boys,’ Snyman said.
Earlier in the day SA had beaten Argentina in the quarters and Fiji in the semi-finals.
With Fiji earlier in the weekend confirmed HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions and South Africa as runners-up, the match between the best two sides in the world this year proved to be a great one, with South Africa winning 26-21.
Each team took turns to outfox each other and scores were tied 14-14 at the break.
A handling error by the Blitzboks gave an early try to Fiji, but a great run by Tim Agaba from the restart equalled scores. The South Africans took a 14-7 lead when Kyle Brown raced in to score, but Fiji came back with another converted try just before the break.
The second half started well for the Blitzboks with Dylan Sage running strongly following some composed play by the team. That gave South Africa the lead again (21-14) and when Rosko Speckman kicked ahead and scored from a set-piece, it was 26-14 with two minutes to play.
Fiji scored again to bring the score within a try, but great defence by South Africa helped them into the final.
In the picture Speckman valiantly attempts to fly the SA flag highest in the final against Scotland. Picture by ROGER SEDRES/Gallo Images
The top five teams in the final standings are:
1 Fiji 181
2 South Africa 171
3 New Zealand 158
4 Australia 134
5 Argentina 119
– See more at: http://www.sascoc.co.za/2016/05/22/blitzboks-bow-out-to-scotland-in-series-final/#sthash.4XNDj41a.dpuf