South Africa beat Fiji 26-5 in the final of the Wellington Sevens, to win their first ever title in the New Zealand leg of the World Series since 2002.
The victory extends South Africa’s lead at the top of the standings while Fiji move above England in to second place.
Fiji landed the first blow in the final when Joeli Lutumailagi showed a superb turn of speed before scoring the opening try, but things soon went pear-shaped for last season’s series winners when Setareki Bituniyata was sent to the bin for a high tackle on Branco du Preez.
South Africa soon took control of proceedings and a brace of tries from Ruhan Nel and further five-pointers from Seabelo Senatla and Rosko Specman secured them a deserved victory.
Blitzbokke captain Philip Snyman paid tribute to his side’s work ethic after their victory.
“We worked really hard after Christmas, and we played some great rugby this weekend,” he said.
“Thank you to the whole of Wellington, we are really grateful for the win.
“We are happy to get a first win since 2002 and it’s extra sweet after last year’s defeat in the final. Playing Fiji twice in one weekend doesn’t make it easier, but our defence system was great. Hats off to the guys and the coaching staff. It wasn’t zero tries, so definitely some work to be done before Sydney.”
South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla was the Player of the Final. Senatla, who became South Africa’s record try-scorer on the World Series, is heading off to play Super Rugby after next weekend’s Sydney event.
“I am going to miss Sevens for a while but I will be coming back next season. It is an incredible vibe and atmosphere,” he said.
“It’s beautiful to be a part of.
“I got burned early on (in the Final) which doesn’t happen very often, but got back to my structure. It was all about keeping calm and starting again. We have a great bond, the players play for each other. We have one big happy family, and we put our bodies on the line for each other.”
Earlier, the Blitzbokke grinded out a 21-5 win over Canada and Fiji beat Scotland 19-12 in the semi-finals.
A superb hat-trick by James Fleming inspired Scotland to bronze medal success in a thrilling win over Canada.
He said: “It was an enjoyable game, it was a whole squad effort. We have been building for the last two years, new coach, consistent squad, and Twickenham gave us belief. We’re looking forward to the next one. We are hitting quarters and semis consistently now and it is awesome to have the squad we do.”
In the fifth-place match, a late Franco Sabato try secured Argentina 17-12 win over hosts New Zealand.
Santiago Gomez Cora, Argentina’s coach, is pleased with his side’s efforts.
“We are very happy, we did a perfect match,” he said.
“The problem is the matches before where we made lots of mistakes. Our idea is to develop our key players, we just need to keep our focus and try to win something and make a new team.”
And in the Challenge Trophy Final, after 15 defeats in a row, Kenya claim a rare win over Australia.
Kenya veteran Collins Injera said: ”We wanted to keep our focus, Australia are a quality side. We stood up and got the win. Today was very windy, the toughest I have had here since my debut in 2006.”
Earlier Samoa beat Russia in the 13th-place play-off.
Samoa’s captain, Tila Mealoi, said: “I’m proud of my team, it’s quite young and there are a few new guys in the team. We are really happy and really proud. We have given a springboard to the new guys, and we are now working on some structure with Sir Gordon (Tietjens). There is a big improvement in our fitness, which is the first thing we are looking at.”
Fiji 5-26 South Africa
Third place play-off
Scotland 28-22 Canada
Fifth place play-off
New Zealand 12-17 Argentina
England 0-24 New Zealand
Argentina 19-14 France
England 12-14 Scotland
New Zealand 10-26 Fiji
Canada 17-12 Argentina
South Africa 45-0 France
Kenya 19-17 Australia
Kenya 19-12 USA
Wales 10-24 Australia
Kenya 24-5 Russia
USA 19-14 Japan
Wales 24-7 Papua New Guinea
Australia 17-14 Samoa
13th place play-off
Russia 12-19 Samoa
Russia 15-5 Japan
Papua New Guinea 7-35 Samoa
With thanks to World Rugby