On Sunday SA rugby and Paris combined for another historical chapter when the Blitzboks claimed the overall HSBC World Sevens Series title for the second time
The Blitzboks fittingly won the Paris leg of the Series with a 15-5 win over Scotland in the final to confirm their dominance of the 2016/17 competition winning the overall title with one tournament to spare.
With victory in their fifth tournament of the year‚ in their eighth final appearance out of nine events‚ South Africa moved to 179 points on the standings with England a distant second on 145 points.
Before the final against Scotland‚ Neil Powell’s team were already confirmed as World Series winners for the first time since 2009 after closest challengers Fiji and England fell by the wayside.
The title ended four consecutive years as runners-up for the Blitzboks and leaves them on course for the most overall points ever in the series (currently 198 by New Zealand in 2002 when there were 11 legs).
Fiji‚ winners of the past two editions of the series‚ lost 24-0 to Scotland in the quarterfinals ending their slim title bid having been 25 points behind SA going into the tournament.
England‚ starting in Paris 27 points behind SA‚ kept their faint hopes flickering into the semi-finals before coming unstuck against the Scots as well.
With the Blitzboks through to the last four after beating Samoa 12-0 in the quarterfinals‚ England’s mathematical chance of winning the title ended.
The freedom of knowing that the title race was over showed as SA smashed New Zealand 26-5 in the semi-final to set up a revenge match with Scotland in the final.
The Scots had beaten SA 19-12 in the opening Pool A match on Saturday‚ but the Blitzboks came through the group with wins against Japan and Canada to advance to the last eight.
Powell praised his players‚ management and support back home and said they were grateful for this victory‚ which they had worked for three years.
“We are extremely grateful and blessed‚ the team worked for this for three seasons. Last year we came close‚ but this time we managed to do it‚” Powell said.
“I have to give the guys credit‚ they are an incredible group that never feared hard work and they deserve this.
“We are also lucky to have management members back home and on tour who work incredibly hard for the team and I want to thank all for that.
“The support we get from SA Rugby is also instrumental in our success.”
Powell also thanked the supporters of the team‚ saying that they are trying to be a team for all the people in South Africa.
“We want to make South Africa proud and hopefully this will help towards that‚” the coach said.
Powell also became the first person to win the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series as a player and as a coach.
He was part of the previous Blitzboks team that clinched the title in 2008/09 (with Paul Treu as coach) and has now won it as coach of the same team he played for in 32 tournaments and captained as well during his career.
“I am much more relieved now than in 2009 when I was a player. Back then I was just happy to win it‚ this time there is huge relief‚” said Powell.
“We are not finished though‚ we want to finish the series strong next week in London and keep chasing that perfect game. We have high standards and keep pushing to improve as a squad.”
The team’s focus has always being inwards and that contributed to their success‚ Powell said.
“We keep the standards high and it does not matter who our opponents are‚ we try and play to those standards. We pride ourselves on our defense and want to be clinical on attack. We don’t always get it right‚ but it does not stop of us from trying‚” Powell concluded.
Meanwhile SA Rugby President‚ Mark Alexander‚ congratulated the team with the series win.
“It is great for the team and for SA Rugby. We are really pleased‚” said Alexander.
“The Blitzboks have made us very proud as a nation and we want to congratulate them with this fantastic achievement. They are not only true ambassadors for our country‚ but true champions as well.”
Craig Ray – Tiso Black Star Group/Tiso Black Star Group Sport