SOUTH Africa won the plate final at the Hong Kong Sevens yesterday after scoring a close-fought 19-14 victory over Wales.
The Blitz Boks earned 13 valuable log points as they slipped to second on the HSBC Sevens World Series standings with just two more rounds to play – in Glasgow (May 3-4) and London (May 10-11 ).
New Zealand won the Cup final 26-7 against England to regain the outright World Series lead on 136 points, seven more than South Africa. Fiji remains third on 112.
Jamba Ulengo (2) and Kwagga Smith scored the tries for a severely depleted Blitz Boks against Wales. Earlier yesterday, England beat the Blitz Boks 14-7 to hand them their first defeat in a Cup quarterfinal this season. That meant that SA was relegated to the plate competition, where they defeated the US 24-19 in the semifinals.
South Africa’s playing resources were stretched thin because of injuries to captain Kyle Brown, Phillip Snyman (neck) and Cecil Afrika (groin strain) while Branco du Preez also received a blow above the eye against the US.
The England defeat also brought to a halt South Africa’s fine and impressive run of appearing in five consecutive finals.
Afterwards, stand-in skipper Frankie Horne said it was extremely tough to play with the assortment of injuries the team picked up over the three days.
He said: “We lost Kyle after he went off in the second minute of our first match on Friday and was then ruled out of action for the rest of the tournament as a precaution. Cecil injured his groin and Phillip was also sidelined for the last two matches because of a sore neck,” said Horne, who has now played in an incredible 57 World Series tournaments in a row for South Africa.
Horne said: “We were down to just eight available players after Branco received a blow to the head, so it was extremely difficult for us in the end.”
According to the veteran, he is however glad the Blitz Boks could gather 13 points in the end from their plate final win over Wales.
“Look, it was not the ideal outcome and we have now placed ourselves in a difficult position because we will have to make up seven points or more against New Zealand. It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I am glad we are not completely out of the race yet,” Horne said.