Olympic champions Fiji held off a brave South African effort to claim their first-ever Sydney Sevens title with a hard-fought 12-10 win on Sunday.
Result notwithstanding, it has been a wonderful turnaround for Fiji and South Africa after both sides crashed out of the Cup race in the pool stage at the Hamilton Sevens last weekend and had to settle for a ninth-place playoff against each other.
This time around, both teams won all their matches to reach the final, but in the end Fiji claimed the crown as Sydney Sevens champions thanks to a try conversion that separated them from South Africa.
In a near perfect start for Fiji, they almost scored from the first kick off, but last ditch defence by the South Africans saw the ball held up off the ground in the in-goal area. But the Pacific Islanders didn’t have to wait long to get their score as Napolioni Bolaca raced clear from the resulting 5m scrum.
It turned into a high-octane event after that and South Africa – undeterred by the early setback – didn’t take a backward step. JC Pretorius slid over to get South Africa on the scoreboard after a damaging run by Zain Davids.
However, Bolaca then completed his double to put Fiji 12-5 up at the break.
The second half didn’t produce as many tries, but there was no shortage of action and drama. A Zain Davids try got South Africa within two on the scoresheet, but unnecessary errors prevented Neil Powell’s mean from turning further scoring chances into points.
That point was well summed up in the final play of the game, when South Africa snatched possession back off a Fijian lineup, but with time up on the clock Cecil Afrika dropped the ball cold and that brought an end to the match.
South Africa had reached the final by beating the United States in the semi-final. They earlier had wins over Samoa (36-0), France (24-12) and Argentina (52-14).