Selvyn Davids pulled the strings as defending champions South Africa beat Argentina 12-7 in a thumping encounter to claim their fifth straight Emirates Dubai 7s title and kick off their HSBC SVNS 2024 campaign in emphatic style.
Impi Visser had already crossed for the Blitzboks when Shilton van Wyk, player of the final in 2022, went over in the fifth minute to take the score to 12-0.
Argentina’s Matías Osadczuk cut the deficit to five points early in the second half, after Ryan Oosthuizen was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.
Rosko Specman came within inches of a spectacular score, but lost the ball – and ploughed into a steward – in the corner, as South Africa held off the Argentinian fightback.
With the series heading to South Africa next week, their run to the title in Dubai could not have come at a better time. Fans will be hoping they can go back-to-back in Cape Town next weekend.
South Africa's acting head coach Philip Snyman hailed his squad's "amazing performances throughout the weekend".
“We said we wanted to leave everything on the field,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what happens with the result – we want to look each other in the eye and have smiles on our faces. Even with the yellow card tonight, they really played each other, they played for their jersey and they restored the pride in the Springbok Sevens jersey.”
Winning difficult matches is a defining characteristic of champions – and South Africa set up a shot at a fifth straight title with a high-intensity 14-7 win over Fiji in the Cup semi-finals.
The defending Dubai champions had kicked off finals day – after that remarkable comeback win over New Zealand on day one – with a comfortable 24-7 quarter-final win over Australia.
“We told ourselves that yesterday didn’t count,” Davids said after that opening victory. “We didn’t achieve anything. We knew that the first game of day two was the most difficult one and the most important one.”
Marcos Moneta – who else? – scored twice as Argentina came from 14-0 down to win their quarter-final against Samoa 21-14, and set up a semi-final with New Zealand.
In the semi-final, evergreen 37-year-old Gastón Revol, in his 99th series tournament, was the try hero for Argentina as they came from behind to beat New Zealand 21-19 to reach their first-ever final in Dubai.
BRONZE FINAL: All Blacks Sevens leave it late to bag bronze
Fehi Fineanganofo stepped and burst through two defenders to score the bronze final-winning try as New Zealand beat Fiji 17-12 at the end of a tense encounter that would have graced the final.
It was another tight encounter for the All Blacks Sevens with five of their six matches decided by a margin of five points or fewer.
The match looked to be heading into golden point territory, with the clock ticking down the final seconds as the All Blacks Sevens spun the ball wide to Fineanganafo, who still had some work to do to get the ball down.
A slow-burn of a first-half had burst into life just before half-time, as Fiji captain Joseva Talacolo and New Zealand’s Akuila Rokolisoa traded tries. Cody Vai and Manueli Maisamoa then traded second-half scores, with the decisive touchdown coming on the cusp of full-time.
Fineanganafo said immediately afterwards: “The boys were a bit disappointed with the semi-final. We just wanted to pick up. I think we did – and the boys will be happy for the rest of the night.”
Ireland bag valuable HSBC SVNS points
Levi Milford scored for Samoa on the last play of their fifth-place play-off against Ireland. It wasn’t enough to win the match – Ireland winning 28-7 to kick off their HSBC SVNS 2024 campaign with useful points.
Ireland captain Harry McNulty was pleased with his side’s performance in Dubai, but said they were looking for improvements next week in Cape Town.
“I don’t think there’s an incredible amount of work that you can add on top – it’s a case of making sure you can be consistent,” he said. “We talk a lot about having that consistency each game, each performance you’re getting a bit better.”
Australia coach John Manenti admitted his squad’s campaign had been below par, after they claimed seventh place with a 26-12 win over USA – but said that there was more to come from his young squad.
“It’s a start point,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We did have a few boys re-entering from pretty decent injuries and it was their first bit of footy for a while. They’ll be better next week, and we had a few guys on debut. No question we’re going to have to lift our standards for next week.”
Great Britain were unable to repeat their remarkable victory over Fiji on the opening day, finishing 10th after losing the ninth-place play-off against France 22-0.
An enthralling 11th-place play-off between Spain and Canada, two sides who were yet to record a win when they met as the sun sank over the horizon in Dubai, ended 19-14 in the Spaniards' favour.