South Africa claimed the third round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with a 26-5 win over in Fiji in a windy Wellington on Sunday.
In a replay of Saturday's Pool B encounter, the Blitzboks again beat the Fijians at the Westpac Stadium to cement their spot at the top of the series standings.
Seabelo Senatla had a memorable weekend as he was named HSBC Player of the Final, DHL Impact Player, and became South Africa's top try scorer with 180 series tries.
Scotland finished in third place after beating Canada 28-22 in an epic bronze final, while Kenya won the Challenge Trophy after beating Australia 19-17 in a tense clash on a blustery evening in the New Zealand capital.
South Africa hadn't won in the Westpac Stadium since 2002 and they had to rally after Joeli Lutumailagi opened the scoring for Fiji, but speedster Senatla levelled minutes later. In the second half, Rosko Specman came off the bench to increase the South African lead before two tries from Ruhan Nel sealed their second tournament win this season.
Accepting his HSBC Player of the Final award, Senatla said: "I got burned early on (in the final) which doesn’t happen very often, but got back to my structure. It was all about keeping calm and starting again. We have a great bond, the players play for each other. We have one big happy family, and we put our bodies on the line for each other.”
Winning captain Philip Snyman said: "We are happy to get a first win since 2002 and it’s extra sweet after last year’s defeat in the final. Playing Fiji twice in one weekend doesn’t make it easier, but our defence system was great. Hats off to the guys and the coaching staff. It wasn’t zero tries, so there is definitely some work to be done before Sydney.”
Before the final, Canada ran Scotland close in a thrilling bronze medal encounter between two teams that impressed many spectators over the weekend. A superb hat-trick byJames Fleminginspired Scotland, despite the efforts of a brave Canadian attack.
Fleming said: “It was an enjoyable game, it was a whole squad effort. We have been building for the last two years (with a) new coach, consistent squad, and (the tournament win last season in) Twickenham gave us belief. We’re looking forward to the next one. We are hitting quarters and semis consistently now and it is awesome to have the squad (that) we do.”
The Scots showed promising signs in Dubai and Cape Town and were deserved semi-finalists in Wellington. They tore into the Fijians from the start and after more than two minutes of possession, they were rewarded with a try when George Horne cut Fiji open. The series champions then fired back courtesy of Kalione Nasoko after entering their opponent's 22 for the first time.
After scoring their try, Nasoko was sent to the bin for a high tackle and Mark Robertson made him pay with a nicely taken effort. The game went back and forth until Fiji seized control, and crucial tries from Veitokani and Lutumailagi sealed the 19-12 win.
Canada can be proud of their efforts this weekend but the men in red were no match for South Africa in the second semi-final. Two first half tries from Senatla and Kwagga Smith, along with a second half effort from Werner Kok put the game beyond Canada, despite Adam Zaruba's consolation try near the end.
Canada's Nate Hirayama was downbeat after the 21-5 defeat: “South Africa are so dangerous on attack, they turned us over and went on to score. They are the best team in the world for a reason. The wind here is crazy, I've played for a lot of years and never seen it like this.”
Old rivals England and Scotland got the first quarter final of the day underway in Wellington on Sunday, and while England got out of the blocks with a Dan Norton try, Jamie Farndale levelled before the impressive Gavin Lowe showed beautiful movement to find a gap and put Scotland ahead.
But it was a try saving tackle that secured the game for Scotland - Fleming raced across the field to stop a rampaging Phil Burgess who had the line at his mercy. A late try for England from Ollie Lindsay Hague wasn't enough and Scotland celebrated a spot in the semis.
Try scorer Lowe said: “That was an outstanding victory for us as we put a big emphasis on today to try and put ourselves into a good place. The work rate of the boys was outstanding. England beat us in the last tournament so we had a point to prove in this one.”
While the Olympic champions looked below par on day one, Sunday saw a pep in the step of the Fijians and hosts New Zealand had the dubious honour of being first out to face the series champions in the second quarter-final. Three unanswered tries from the Fijians in the first half made it very difficult for New Zealand to get a foothold in the match and the hosts went crashing out of the Cup, 26-10.
Following that, the Blitzboks barely broke a sweat in the last quarter final of the day, scoring seven tries as they beat the French, 43-0,
"When the backs are doing their part the forwards don’t mind doing the hard graft if they’re going to put the fast guys away in the corner,” said South Africa's Chris Dry after the match.
"The backs and forwards are certainly doing that this season, and the results have been sublime."
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series moves to Sydney next week where it joins up with the women's tournament for the fourth round of the season.