Paris is a city that has seen some great achievements for South African rugby, from the Springboks’ 52-10 win over France in 1997 to their 2007 World Cup triumph in the “City of Lights”.
Yesterday, SA rugby and Paris combined for another historical chapter when the Blitzboks claimed the overall HSBC World Sevens Series title for a 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 their fifth tournament victory 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 runnersup 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).
With the Blitzboks through to the last four after beating Samoa 12-0 in the quarterfinals‚ England’s 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 semifinal 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‚ for 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.”
He thanked the supporters, saying they were 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.”
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.
“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 been inwards and that contributed to their success‚ Powell said.
“We keep standards high and it does not matter who our opponents are‚ we try and play to those standards.
“We pride ourselves on our defence and want to be clinical on attack. We don’t always get it right‚ but it does not stop of us from trying.”