SOUTH Africa defended their Las Vegas Sevens title successfully when they defeated New Zealand 14-7 in another dramatic and tense Cup final between the two rugby rivals early yesterday.
The teams were tied 7-7 at half-time after Scott Curry opened the scoring for New Zealand and Branco du Preez replied for the Blitz Boks.
Werner Kok, who had an impressive tournament, scored the winning try soon after replacing the injured Justin Geduld in the second half.
The win also gave South Africa a slender lead in the Sevens World Series standings. They trailed New Zealand by two points at the start of the tournament, but a second successive win in as many World Series events in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas saw South Africa climb to the top of the log on 78 points.
The Blitz Boks enjoyed a lot of support from the appreciative crowd in the Sam Boyd Stadium and the team and management were mobbed by jubilant fans on the field after the final whistle.
The victory was especially significant for the South Africans, who conceded only two tries during the tournament and managed to stay unbeaten in their successful march to a third win in four years in Las Vegas.
The Blitz Boks previously won the Las Vegas title in 2011 and last year.
They had to overcome the loss of ace try scorer Seabelo Senatla, who was ruled out of action because of an ankle injury, while Geduld and speedster Sampie Mastriet both left the Cup final action early due to injuries.
SA Sevens coach Neil Powell said: “It was very intense and what a gutsy performance that was from the guys. They all played for each other. Just the way they showed commitment was tremendous. There is still a long way to go to keep us at the top.”
Under the guidance of Powell, who took over the coaching duties from long-serving Paul Treu at the beginning of the season, South Africa have now reached three Cup finals in a row this season, winning titles in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas. Earlier, they qualified for the final after beating the powerful outfit of Samoa 14-0 in their semifinal clash.
They defeated Argentina 36-0 in a splendid display of attacking skill and great defence in the quarterfinals.
The 16 teams now travel to Wellington in New Zealand for round five of the World Series, which takes place on February 7-8 at the Westpac Stadium. – Sports Correspondent