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Rugby | Sevens

Blitzboks © Backpagepix

Blitzboks crowned series champions



South Africa’s Sevens side are on top of the world – literally and figuratively – as they were crowned both Paris Sevens champions and World Series champions on a glorious Sunday afternoon.

The Blitzboks – the most successful South African rugby team of the past decade – finally achieved their lifelong dream by lifting the World title with one tournament to spare.

They had already tasted victory in Dubai, Wellington, Sydney and Las Vegas, and in their eighth final in nine tournaments on Sunday they added the Paris Sevens title to their haul with a 15-5 win over a brave Scotland in the final.

In all the Blitzboks have played 45 games in this year’s series – and lost only eight – giving them an 83 percent win record on the circuit and the World title by virtue of consistent excellence under coach Neil Powell.

What was a missed opportunity in the World Series and Olympics last season has now finally become a reality as they join Paul Treu’s Class of 2009 as the second South African side to win the series title.

And after Scotland beat them so soundly in the first game of the Paris tournament on Saturday, the response was brutal and direct as the Blitzboks made sure there was no repeat of the flat performance they opened with.

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Werner Kok in particular was a man on fire.

Scotland missed nine tackles in the first half alone, showing just how incisive the Blitzboks attack could be.

They gave Scotland no room to move, shut down almost every attack and their defence was both aggressive and targeted, making sure there was no doubt about who the best team was.

Kok scored along with Dylan Sage, but it was the crucial final try by captain Philip Snyman that secured the title and gave the Blitzboks the breathing space to ease home to the trophy.

The Blitzboks had earlier beaten New Zealand 26-5 to book their spot in the Cup final.

After the final a beaming Snyman glowed about the win and despite several key injuries and the loss of Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla to Super Rugby, the team had more than enough to power home to the title.

They now lead the World Series by a whopping 34 points with just the London tournament next week to play. If they continue this form to end on a high, it could be one of the biggest Series margins in history.

“It is a tremendous feeling, we lost out in one final this season and to get back to winning ways is great,” Snyman said.

“Here, we lost to Scotland in our first game so I am really pleased with coming back to win the Cup. We can’t complain about eight finals in nine tournaments.

"The strike rate is phenomenal. This bunch of guys I would go to war with on any day. They are champions, they are a band of brothers. They deserve all of it.”

Player of the final Werner Kok was also overjoyed as he received his award.

“I think the guys came out and played phenomenally. Every single guy played their part. It is a great honour to get this award, I don’t have the words [to express my feelings].”

HIGH STANDARDS

Coach Neil Powell called it a “blessing” but underlined the hard work put in by the team to get the win. Consistency and winning seven of the eight finals in this year’s Series was the big difference and made them a tough side to beat on tour.

The coach praised his players, management and support back home and said they are grateful for this victory, which they had worked for for three years.

"We are extremely grateful and blessed, the team worked for this for three seasons. Last year we came close, but this time we managed to do it," Powell said.

"I have to give the guys credit, they are an incredible group that never feared hard work and they deserve this.

"We are also lucky to have management members back home and on tour who work incredibly hard for the team and I want to thank all of them for that. The support we get from SA Rugby is also instrumental in our success."

Powell also thanked the supporters of the team, saying that they are trying to be a team for all the people in South Africa. "We want to make South Africa proud and hopefully this will help towards that," the coach said.

Powell also became the first person to win the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series as a player and as a coach. He was part of the previous Blitzboks team that clinched the title in 2008/09 (with Paul Treu as coach) and now won it as coach of the same team he played for in 32 tournaments and captained as well during his career.

"I am much more relieved now than in 2009 when I was a player. Back then I was just happy to win it, this time there is huge relief," said Powell.

"We are feeling really blessed. We are not finished though, we want to finish the series strong next week in London and keep chasing that perfect game. We have high standards and want to keep pushing to improve as a squad."

The team focus has always been inwards and that contributed to their success, Powell said.

"We keep the standards high and it does not matter who our opponents are, we try and play to those standards. We pride ourselves on our defence and we want to be clinical on attack. We don't always get it right, but it does not stop of us from trying," Powell concluded.

Meanwhile, SA Rugby President Mark Alexander congratulated the team on the series win.

"It is great for the team and for SA Rugby. We are really pleased," said Alexander.

"The Blitzboks have made us very proud as a nation and we want to congratulate them on this fantastic achievement. They are not only true ambassadors for our country, but true champions as well."

The Series now moves to London for the finale, but Paris, the city that saw the Springbok 15s triumph in 2007 and has tasted Blitzbok success before, has given South Africa a night to remember.

The Blitzboks have shown that there is a lot of talent in the country, and used right, they can beat anyone in the world.

The team have always been a shining light of what can be done, but on Sunday night in Paris they reminded the world of just how good they are.

They deserve every plaudit that comes their way.



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