All Blacks take another PE title
New Zealand made it a fourth Sevens title in South Africa on Sunday as they strengthened their grip on the HSBC Sevens Series with a comprehensive 47-12 thrashing of France in the final of the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth.
The French can be forgiven for their performance though, as they had to endure an epic 25-minute semifinal to beat Argentina which sucked most of their energy before they reached the final.
In the end they didn't have an answer for Gordon Tietjens' team, who have been the most consistent this season and proved again why they love playing in South Africa.
Unlike the behaviour of the small group of local All Black supporters, Tietjens’ team were all class as they massacred the French after earlier breaking the Springbok Sevens team's hearts with a 12-5 win in the semifinal.
It was then when any interest in this tournament effectively ended for the home crowd, which although sparse, was very vocal.
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The semifinal turned out to be an epic clash, as the Blitzbokke scored first through Paul Delport but then made several crucial errors on attack, and were beaten at the breakdown, and when they replaced players to put on speed, lost the physical battle.
But considering they came from a poor performance in Dubai, the Blitzbokke lost only one game the entire weekend and can be proud of bouncing back and getting so close.
New Zealand showed a consistency in the Sevens series that few other teams can match at the moment. Their combination of power and pace, especially with big Ben Lam giving them crucial go-forward, has been a hallmark of many Tietjens teams, and once again was the bedrock of their victory.
Afterwards coach Paul Treu said he was proud of his side, who lost captain Kyle Brown and Branco du Preez to injury before they arrived in South Africa from Dubai, and this week also lost Steven Hunt.
They rushed back Cecil Afrika from rehab, and while the former IRB Sevens player of the year didn’t have a practice session with the team, his impact on the tournament was remarkable.
Afrika was the backbone of the team, and gave them a crucial element that was missing a week before, as they varied their attack to come through day one with victories over eventual finalists France, Dubai champs Samoa and Australia.
On day two they beat the USA in the quarters, and while they had their chances against New Zealand, made crucial mistakes when it mattered.
If this was a report card, the Blitzbokke will be disappointed. A pass mark, but no distinction, with a remarks column that says “can do better.”
The Blitzbokke know this all too well. It was an improvement from Dubai, but their home tournament continues to be a tough nut to crack.