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Brave Blitzboks fall to Fiji in Hamilton final

Blitzboks

By Mark Etheridge

A 17-5 halftime lead wasn’t enough to help South Africa’s Blitzboks retain their HSBC Hamilton Sevens title in New Zealand on Sunday.

A great comeback by Fiji saw the Pacific Islanders winning 24-7 in a game which saw each side down to six men at various stages during the game.

It was the 17th time that these two great protaganists had met in a World Seven Series final and it was once again a crackerjack affair.

Fiji got off to the worst possible start with Josua Vakuranabi sinned after just 30 seconds for a deliberate knock-on.

The Blitzboks took advantage of the numerical advantage and it was Kwagga Smith, returning from the quarter-final stage after injury who went over after some good work from Branco du Preez.

Fiji struck back through Alasio Naduva after a great break-out. That was despite Seabelo Senatla hauling a Fiji player in metres before the line to no avail as the ball was smartly recycled to Naduva.

The Blitzboks were next on the board after a line-out move saw play sweeping across the field and then right back to finally find Kyle Brown, skippering once again after injury to Philip Snyman.

That made it 10-5 and the Blitzboks scored once more, after the hooter as Du Preez jinked this way and that before the Fijian defence finally opened.

That saw the half-time coming with the Blitzboks 17-5 to the good.

Fiji were soon back in it as Naduva got his second try and then came the game-changing moment as Du Preez saw yellow for a late tackle after a Fijian chip kick.

Less than a minute later it was Naduva who went over for his third try. It came after a brilliant run by Werner Kok was turned over deep in Fijian territory and the islanders combined in a sweeping move the full length of the field.

With 34sec on the clock it was Erni Sau who put the seal on victory after a brutal period of play as they smashed their way through brave Blitzboks defence.

Victory meant it was the first time since 2010 that Fiji have managed to win a sevens tournament on New Zealand soil, the last time being in 2010 when the tournament was still being held in Wellington.

Making the final means the Blitzboks extend their lead in the series rankings with 77 points compared to beaten bronze-medal match contestants New Zealand’s 69. Fiji move up to third with 62.

The Blitzboks can pat themselves on the back though after a crippling period of injuries both in the build-up to and during the Hamilton tournament. Next up is Las Vegas, US on 2-4 March.

Picture of the Fijians celebrating in front of a dejected Blitzboks side courtesy of Hannah Peters/Getty Images


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