South Africa clinch Dubai Sevens title to maintain World Series dominance

Blitzboks edge Australia in a tense final at The Sevens to extend unbeaten run to 24 matches

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There was a “Bealearic-inspired” platform overlooking Pitch 2. Tickets for entry to the tournament were redeemable via an app. Seven-a-side cricket was being played next door.

New Zealand, England, Scotland, Samoa and Wales were not here. Great Britain were. And Spain beat Fiji.

After its two-year absence, there was so much that was different about the 2021 Emirates Dubai Sevens to what had gone before.

Then, at the end of it all, South Africa cleaned up. So at least not everything changes.

When the Blitzboks beat Australia 10-7 in a tense final match in the World Series tournament, it gave them a third successive Emirates International Trophy – albeit spread over a weird timeframe.

Those three wins comprise the 2019 title then, after a long hiatus because of Covid, titles in successive weeks in Dubai as sevens finally returned – first without fans at all, and then with stacks of them.

Siviwe Soyizwapi, South Africa’s victorious captain, knows which he prefers.

“It is great for South Africa and great for South African rugby,” said Soyizwapi, who scored the opening try in the final.

“The Springboks really did well in 2021, and we have started off this year well as well. We were so grateful to have the supporters out here tonight.

“They were not here last week, so it was great to have that energy and atmosphere back inside the stadium.

“Australia took us to the wire. All credit to them for the performance they brought out there, but my boys held on with grit and kept them out there in the end.”

South Africa’s extraordinary form in the abridged format meant their success in the UAE came as little surprise.

They are in the midst of a 24-game unbeaten run, and sit top of the sevens standings – just as their better-known compatriots do in the XVs game.

And yet that belies the fact they had started this weekend with just 11 fit players, as they were unable to fly out injury replacements as a consequence of the omicron travel ban.

“We came into this tournament with only 11 players,” said JC Pretorius, who scored the decisive try and was named player of the match in the final.

“A lot of people thought we were only here to survive, but we came here and thrived. That is the thing about this group. We gelled so well last weekend.

“Last weekend was in the past, but we stuck to our guns and came out victorious.”

Defeat was harsh on Australia, who held a 7-5 lead after Corey Toole’s blistering break in the fifth minute.

It was just the second time in history the Australians had reached the final in Dubai, having been beaten by the same opposition in the 2014 final.

“I can’t deny it hurts,” said Tim Walsh, Australia’s coach.

“We came here to win, so it is disappointing. But they played really well, too. There is a lot of talent that got exposed, and the players and staff should be really proud.

“We are definitely inexperienced. There weren’t many caps out there, that’s for sure, but that can be an advantage, in terms of having the naivete to go and play.

“But against South Africa, they probably have over 200 caps and have just won four [tournaments] in a row, so the odds were stacked against us.”

Updated: December 04, 2021, 7:57 PM