Blitzboks brilliant in opener

OPENING WIN: South Africa’s players celebrate winning against Fiji in the World Rugby Seven Series in Dubai Picture: AFP
OPENING WIN: South Africa’s players celebrate winning against Fiji in the World Rugby Seven Series in Dubai
Picture: AFP

Seabelo Senatla stars as Fiji stunned by 26-14 Dubai defeat

South Africa stunned defending World Series and Olympic champions Fiji 26-14 to win the Dubai Sevens on Saturday. It was a fifth Dubai title for South Africa, who were second in the World Series last season before going on to take bronze at the Rio Olympics.

Fittingly, last season’s player of the year Seabelo Senatla scored South Africa’s last try of the final, taking his tally for the two days to 11.

England beat Wales 38-10 to claim third place.

“We just needed to stick to our game plan and structure and that’s exactly what the guys did,” Blitzboks skipper Philip Snyman said.

South Africa scored early tries from Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez to put them in charge before Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau crossed to make it 14-7 at half time.

Jerry Tuwai scored under the posts with the conversion bringing the scores level at 14-14 early in the second period.

But South Africa quickly reasserted their authority with a third try of the game for player of the final Chris Dry before Senatla sealed the match.

“We can be positive going into our home tournament next weekend in Cape Town, but we need to start all over again and fix a few things that went wrong. We need to recover well over the next few days,” Snyman said.

Coach Neil Powell applauded the defensive effort of his team, but said they needed to improve on that aspect of play, as it was poor on the opening day on Friday.

“It worked well and showed how effective our defence can be when it is functionally properly, unlike yesterday. We had a game plan for Fiji – they are dangerous with offloads, so we needed to be in their faces.”

Powell was pleased with their performance in the final.

“It was a really great performance against Fiji. We played Fiji five times last year and won three times, so have an idea how to best contain them. You have to keep it structured.”

Powell realises the pressure will build on the side to repeat the performance in Cape Town this weekend.

“We will have pressure this week, but the key for us will be to return to zero as soon as possible. We need to start all over again. It will take another massive effort to defend our title in Cape Town.”

Player of the tournament Senatla said it was important for the team to start the season well and for himself not to rest on his laurels after being named World Rugby Sevens Player of 2016.

“It was a big one for me last year, but I needed to start all over again,” he said.

“I am very happy what we did this weekend. “These guys were awesome and continued to keep feeding me in space, so hats off to all on my inside that are doing all the hard work,” Senatla said.

In the third-place playoff, Dan Norton scored four of England’s six tries with Richard de Carpentier and Charlie Hayter also on the score sheet.

Australia finished fifth, while the USA raised the men’s Challenge Trophy with a 28-14 win over Samoa, with Perry Baker’s beautiful first half chip-and-chase try raising the noise even further.

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