By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s Blitzbok rugby sevens side are another step to yet another World Rugby series tournament title after reaching the final of the Japan leg of the series in Tokyo on Sunday.
The Blitzboks overcame arch-rivals Fiji in a wet war of semi-final attrition at the Prince Chichibu Stadium.
In a low-scoring match, Neil Powell’s charges beat the Pacific Islanders 7-5 in a match more memorable for errors than excellence.
The Blitzboks reached the final courtesy of staying unbeaten in their Pool C matches with wins over Canada, Kenya and the United States and then a 22-0 quarter-final victory over Scotland early on Sunday morning.
During that game Cecil Africa became the first SA sevens player to reach the 1000 points mark.
Semi-final action saw sustained SA action on the Fiji line but knock-ons denied any scoring opportunities.
After weathering that early storm Fiji then had a chance of their own but Jasa Veremalua then knocked on after almost securing what would have been an amazing gather.
The halftime break saw the teams locked at 0-0 but just over a minute into the second stanza it was again Veremalua who burst through the Blitzbok barriers to open the scoring. The conversion was missed but the Fijians had their noses ahead.
To their credit the Blitzboks refused to panic and with 2:41 to play it was a barging run by Kwagga Smith that saw him get through virtually the entire Fijian team to dot down to the right of the posts.
The vital conversion was slotted by Africa and the Blitzboks had just over two minutes to survive.
Some superb defence saw them keeping the islanders out and they were awarded a penalty close to their line. However, they nearly shot themselves in the foot by missing touch and giving the Fijians another chance. With 14sec to go the Fijians had a scrum but knocked on to see the Blitzboks booking their spot in the final against England (who beat Canada in the second semi) in the final later on Sunday.
Good news for the Blitzboks in this all-important Olympic Games qualifying year, is that even if they lose to England they’ll extend their lead on top fo the standings after New Zealand were upset by Canada in the quarter-finals.
Picture of Blitzbok supporters Ian and Rosa Mayer, who travelled all the way from Texas, US to support their team is courtesy of 24Sevens.