The two teams had never previously met in a Cup final and Pierre Gilles Lakafia’s early try forced South Africa to come from behind but they stood up impressively, putting three converted tries on France before conceding again.
Selvyn Davids ran more than half the field to set up Impi Visser beneath the posts, Werner Kok stole the ball to set up Davids three minutes into first-half overtime, before Kok got on the scoresheet himself on the left-hand side.
Stephen Parez scored a late consolation try — the 295th of the weekend, the most in a stage this season — with a remarkable run down the left, but it wasn’t enough to get his side back into the game.
It marks an incredible turn of fortune for France, who picked up just one point in Las Vegas last week, reaching their first Cup final since Port Elizabeth in 2012.
But they could not overcome an impressive South African side, who will look to use this performance as a stepping stone to retaining their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series crown.
South Africa captain Philip Snyman said: “It was a much-needed win for our team and I think the boys played some fantastic rugby throughout the tournament. I’m really happy with the win and hopefully we can build on this one now.
“There’s a lot of talent in this group and back home and I can’t wait to see everyone together as it was only a matter of time before this team started to gel. They showed glimpses this week of what they can do and I believe there is a strong squad coming through.”
Selvyn Davids, the HSBC Player of the Final, added: “We knew France were going to come for us. I wouldn’t have achieved this if it wasn’t for my team so thanks to them. We’ve a lot of youngsters but like the coach said, if we can gel together then anything is possible.”
BRONZE FOR FIJI
Reigning Vancouver champions Fiji were simply too skilful for USA to seal third, completing a 24-14 victory in the Bronze Final.
They dominated possession for the first 90 seconds and made it count, Alesio Naduva found in space on the right wing. He was soon beaten by Kevon Williams as USA took the lead, but a beautiful one-handed offload from Naduva set up Terio Veilawa before half-time.
Sevuloni Mocenacagi strode back inside for a perfect running line before Carlin Isles made Fiji pay for a tackle in the air, using the man advantage to dot down in the corner. But with his side back to their full complement, Jerry Tuwai created a break and found Vilimoni Botitu on the left to put the result beyond doubt.
Fiji produced a match worthy of the Cup final as they beat New Zealand 22-21 in the Cup quarter-final. Sam Dickson put the All Blacks Sevens ahead before Josua Vakurunabili hit straight back. Tim Mikkelson ensured New Zealand were ahead at half-time but Aminiasi Tuimaba’s double either side of the break and Naduva’s try ensured Fiji progressed.
They took the lead against South Africa in the semi-final through Tuimaba but Stedman Gans and Davids helped turn the game on its head, scoring before the break with Justin Geduld and 19-year-old Muller du Plessis ensuring their spot in the final with two late tries.
USA were asked to come from a 19 point first-half deficit in both their knockout matches, succeeding against England in the quarter-final but falling short against France. Will Muir’s pair and Tom Bowen’s score gave England the advantage but Madison Hughes and Ben Pinkelman brought USA back in it. Steve Tomasin drove through for a try on the hooter and Hughes’s kick sealed victory.
France did not yield, Parez playing the starring role in a resounding 33-5 victory. His dummy from a quick tap penalty bamboozled the USA defence before Gabin Villiere touched down as USA looked to play out from beyond their own goalline. Marvin O’Connor added another before Jean Pascal Barraque’s second-half double denied the World Series leaders a sixth straight final this season.
Les Bleus scored five converted tries against Samoa in the quarter-final, while South Africa had breezed past Argentina despite having to come from behind, with Siviwe Soyizwapi scoring a double either side of half-time.
NEW ZEALAND FINISH FIFTH
New Zealand finished outside the top four for the first time this season but confirmed fifth place with a 26-19 victory over England.
It required patience early on but Jona Nareki eventually got them going, finishing simply from a set-piece. England responded stylishly with Tom Mitchell feeding Dan Norton on the inside, a move he would repeat with Tom Bowen on the outside. In between times, Vilimoni Koroi scored after a delightful pass flipped over the top from Nareki.
Nareki added his second as Tone Ng Shiu drew in defenders on the left to create space. Ngarohi McGarvey-Black found space in behind the England defence and Ryan Olowofela’s score came too late for England.
Lautaro Bazan Velez got Argentina off to a dream start against New Zealand with an outrageous diving finish and a stride through the New Zealand defence. But there was late drama for the All Blacks Sevens, who fought back from 21-7 down, with Scott Gregory, Nareki and Te Puoho Stephens — scoring in the final play — earning a win.
England exchanged tries with Samoa but Charlton Kerr’s second-half try ensured there was to be no comeback after Tofatu Solia and Elisapeta Alofipo had scored, with Samoa eventually losing 33-14.
AUSTRALIA CLINCH CHALLENGE TROPHY
Australia lifted the Challenge Trophy after a clinical 35-21 victory over Canada. Simon Kennewell was the first to strike, running in his eighth try of the weekend, the ball shifted across the field from a quick lineout. Ben O’Donnell then produced a perfect kick forward for Dylan Pietsch, the original 13th man who proved to be a revelation, to latch onto.
Pietsch added Australia’s fifth late on after scores for Henry Hutchison and John Porch. Tries from Luke McCloskey, Isaac Kaay and Harry Jones gave the home supporters something to cheer but Canada finished tenth.
Kennewell had earlier added two tries against Wales with three second-half scores enough to seal a 33-22 victory in the semi-final.
Canada had produced an impressive comeback against Scotland, with Nyle Godsmark and Glenn Bryce sending Scotland 14-0 up. But Jones ran in a quickfire double and Kaay scored late on as he queued up beside a ruck to send Canada through to the Trophy final.