South Africa were crowned World Rugby’s 2017/18 Sevens Series champions after beating England 24-14 in the Paris Sevens Final on Sunday.
As the scoreline suggests, the Blitzboks were made to work hard for their victory in the final and their triumph means they retain their World Rugby Sevens Series title.
For the first time in the history of the World Rugby Sevens Series, the winners were decided in the last match of the final tournament.
Fiji came into the Paris Sevens with a seven-point lead over South Africa but the Pacific islanders suffered a shock 19-17 defeat to England in the quarter-finals and eventually finished in fifth place.
Despite that, South Africa had to work hard for their triumph and they secured a narrow 15-10 victory over Spain in the quarter-finals before beating New Zealand 24-10 in the semi-finals.
South Africa finished the series on top with 182 points, followed by Fiji who took silver with 180 points and New Zealand in third on 150 points after claiming the bronze medal in Paris with a 38-5 victory over Canada in the third-place play-off.
South Africa edged past Spain in the quarter-final with a try in the fifth minute of overtime by Justin Deguld, after the scores were tied 10-10 at the end of regular time. The Blitzboks then found their stride in the semi-final with a comprehensive victory over New Zealand thanks to a pair of tries from the impressive 23-year-old Dewald Human who only made his debut two months ago in Hong Kong.
Human was again in try scoring form in the final and was delighted to be voted Player of the Final: “It’s been a fantastic experience here in Paris. I backed myself and just enjoyed every minute on the field. We stuck to the game plan and are very happy with the win.”
South Africa captain Philip Snyman added: “We wanted to go out and play some fantastic rugby and focus on what we could control. The guys played phenomenal rugby and all credit to the team. We just did the simple stuff and played with smiles on our faces today. It’s an amazing feeling representing such an amazing country and the people back home never stopped believing in us and supporting us.”
Fiji missed the chance to secure the title earlier in the day as they were defeated by a spirited England team in a breath-taking quarter-final. England captain Tom Mitchell finished off a 26 pass move to score in the dying seconds of the match and bring an end to Fiji’s recent dominance which had seen them win the previous four rounds of the series.
Fiji recovered to beat Ireland 38-5 and USA 28-7 to finish fifth in Paris and put the pressure on South Africa going in to the final but ultimately it was not enough and the Fijians were forced to settle for series silver, despite winning five of the ten rounds.
England produced another powerful performance in the semi-final with a convincing 26-12 victory over Canada to reach their first final of the 2017/18 series, but they were unable to cope with the Blitzboks in the final as the men from South Africa ran out winners in front of a noisy Paris crowd.
Invitational team Ireland’s fine run of form came to an end as they were beaten 19-5 by Canada in the quarter-finals but following their bronze medal performance in London last week the Irish have shown enough promise over the past two rounds to raise expectations of a bright future in Sevens.
Argentina won the Challenge Trophy, awarded to the team finishing in ninth position, after overcoming Wales 33-26.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Final, New Zealand finished their World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series campaign in style with a convincing 33-7 win over rivals Australia to take the gold medal.
Both teams had reason to celebrate at the final whistle as the silver medal in Paris means Australia secure the overall series crown by virtue of their consistency across the series, finishing on the podium in each of the five rounds. Australia finished the series with 92 points, ahead of New Zealand on 90.
Hosts France claimed the series bronze medal despite being defeated 17-10 by Canada in the third-place play-off match in Paris.
The exuberant French crowd were treated to a celebratory haka by the Black Ferns Sevens after their dominant display in the Paris final. A five-try haul included series leading try scorer Portia Woodman add two tries to take her personal tally to 43 for the series and 215 points in total.
New Zealand captain Sarah Goss also got on the scoresheet and was named Player of the Final.
“I’m so happy with how we’ve gone in this tournament,” she said.
“It was amazing, especially heading in to the World Cup to keep building momentum. We were a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t win the series but I’m really proud of how the girls have finished off the series. We’ll be going home and working on our preparations for the World Cup in San Francisco because it’s going to be a big one.”
All attention now turns to the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco from 20-22 July, where 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams will battle it out to become world champions over three days of exciting action. Over 72,000 tickets have already been sold.
Men’s tournament, Day Two results
England 14-24 South Africa
Canada 05-38 New Zealand
Fifth place play-off
Fiji 28-10 USA
Challenge Trophy Final
Argentina 33-26 Wales
13th place play-off
Kenya 21-20 Scotland
New Zealand 12-24 South Africa
England 26-12 Canada
South Africa 15-10 Spain
USA 7-33 New Zealand
Ireland 5-19 Canada
Fiji 17-19 England
Final World Series standings:
1 South Africa 182
2 Fiji 180
3 New Zealand 150
4 Australia 123
5 England 122
6 USA 117
7 Argentina 105
8 Kenya 104
9 Canada 76
10 Samoa 59
11 Spain 56
12 Scotland 55
13 France 53
14 Wales 49
15 Ireland 27
16 Russia 26
17 Papua New Guinea 6
18 Uganda 4
19 Japan 3
20 Uruguay 2
21 South Korea 1
With thanks to World Rugby