The Springbok Sevens scored three tries in a dazzling first half display to lead their nemesis 19-7 at halftime. Cecil Afrika, Chris Dry and Branco du Preez were the try scorers as South Africa raced into a deserved lead.
Mitieli Nacagilevu and then Watisoni Votu were the scorers for Fiji. However, the South African defence stood firm in the face of a huge physical challenge and the Springbok Sevens finally sealed the match after Bernado Botha showed great strength to power his way over despite the presence of several defenders.
Paul Treu, the Springbok Sevens coach, was understandably pleased and a very relieved man afterwards. “I am absolutely delighted for the guys, even more so for the youngsters, who now know what it feels like to succeed at this level.
“It was good to have Cecil back in the team and he combined really well with Branco, who showed tremendous composure against England to put Cecil away for his important try. We showed more patience in the second half against England and the guys took that mentality into the final, where we had a really good start,” explained Treu.
Team captain Kyle Brown singled out the defence as one of the main contributing factors for their success in the USA: “We worked really hard on the basics and to make use of our opportunities. We defended very well and the team effort was absolutely great on the second day.”
The turning point for the South African campaign was just after halftime in the thrilling 17-10 comeback victory over England semi-final. Dan Norton and Tom Powell gave England a strong 10-0 lead at the break after the English dominated possession.
South Africa restarted in much better fashion and they finally got onto the scoreboard after Afrika collected a clever chip from Du Preez, who spotted the absence of a sweeper as a result of the flat English defensive line.
Afrika then converted Brown’s try to put SA in the lead (14-10) and also converted a drop kick penalty with just seconds remaining on the clock to secure a first Cup final appearance for the team since Edinburgh 2009.
The playmaker was clearly back to his best after he missed the Wellington event because of a jaw injury. He combined well with Du Preez, who himself had a very good tournament, and also the promising teenager Paul Jordaan who played in only his second tournament after his debut in New Zealand a week ago.
Afrika scored 54 points, the most by a player at the tournament, including five tries.
The next two tournaments take place next month in Hong Kong and Adelaide and a good showing at both these events could yet see South Africa challenge the leaders at the top of the HSBC Sevens World Series table.
The team arrives on Tuesday evening in Cape Town.
1. England 80 points
2. New Zealand 80
3. Fiji 64
4. Samoa 64
5. South Africa 56