Written by Alex Goff
Sunday, 26 January 2014 17:52
South Africa Win Vegas, Take 1st in Standings
USA Sevens Tournament
Kok goes in for the winner. Ian Muir photo.South Africa made it two in a row and three in four years, winning the 2014 USA 7s and in the process overtaking losing finalists New Zealand for first place in the HSBC Sevens World Series standings.
The Blitzbokke won because they weathered a long period of New Zealand attack in the first half. The All Black Sevens had all sorts of possession, but could not break through in that clinical fashion that has become their hallmark.
Eventually New Zealand did score, but it took them three minutes to do it. A half-break and then a long pass out wide to Scott Curry saw the Bay of Plenty talent skirt around one tackler and curve in behind the posts.
That 7-0 lead seemed to be the start of much more, but it wasn't, as South Africa regained possession and started to pressure the New Zealand defense. That defense held on, handling the bruising Blitzbokke forwards. But the power game did serve to push the New Zealanders back inch by inch. And inch by inch the punishment started to tell.
Eventually, right before the end of the first ten-minute half, the All Blacks were called for diving onto the ball in the ruck in their own 22. A quick tap and two fairly unorthodox passes put Branco du Preez in at the corner. Du Preez, as Curry had done before him, crucially ran in closer to the posts, making Cecil Afrika's conversion attempt easier, and Afrika duly did the job to tie the game 7-7 at halftime.
The rest of the game was a slog. Both teams were tired, but kept coming. It wasn't until the 5th minute that anyone scored. Afrika slipped through and the sent a long pass out wide. On the wing was Werner Kok, who bulled his way over on the left side. Afrika slotted the touchline conversion to make it 14-7.
New Zealand had several good opportunities after that. But somehow the South Africa cover defense was just good enough. The game devolved late into a series of scrums and lineouts as the players sucked dry desert air looking for some more energy. Unlike last year, when South Africa crushed New Zealand, this was a knife-edge game and a battle at the same time. Either way, South Africa are the champions.
South Africa 14
Tries: du Preez, Kok
Convs: Afrika 2
New Zealand 7
Final USA 7s Standings:
Cup Champions: South Africa
Runners Up: New Zealand
Plate Champions: England
7th: France & Argentina
Bowl Champions: Fiji
11th: Wales & Scotland
Shield Champions: USA
15th: Portugal & Uruguay