Ngarohi McGarvey-Black's try saw New Zealand come from behind to beat South Africa 7-5 in the HSBC Cape Town Sevens 2019 final on Sunday and claim their 11th Cup title in the country in HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series history.
Only a week after South Africa had beaten the All Blacks Sevens 15-0 in the final of the opening round of the 2020 Series in Dubai, the teams met for the 25th time in a Cup final with the Blitzboks bidding to win the first two rounds for the first time since triumphing in Dubai and George in 2008-09.
South Africa started the better, to the delight of the Cape Town Stadium crowd roaring them on, with Seabelo Senatla racing away only for a great tackle by Regan Ware to not only stop him but dislodge the ball.
A strong run from Kurt Baker took New Zealand into the Blitzboks' 22 and the All Blacks Sevens continued to build the pressure in South Africa's half but they couldn't find a way through and the Cup final was scoreless at half-time.
It didn't remain that way for long with Andrew Knewstubb dropping the kick-off and South Africa made New Zealand pay, Justin Geduld's kick finding Senatla who then found his team-mate again for a try with just over a minute played.
New Zealand fumbled the restart again but Baker was able to stop South Africa from scoring a second try by regathering the loose ball, before causing the Blitzboks more trouble in defence with another run that saw him bounce out of several tackles.
With three minutes to play, New Zealand silenced the crowd when they worked McGarvey-Black, who was later named HSBC Player of the Final, over for a try that Baker was able to convert to take the lead. A crucial lineout steal deep in their own half with a minute to go proved crucial as the All Blacks Sevens then held on to claim a first title in Cape Town since 2018.
New Zealand co-captain Scott Curry said: “We knew it was going to be a tough fight and nil-all at half-time I guess is fitting for a crowd like this. Cape Town has really turned it on and the support here is amazing – we really appreciate it and all the support back home has been massive.
“It doesn’t get much better than that, playing South Africa in front of a home crowd with over 50,000 fans roaring the national anthem. It’s hard not to get inspired by that, even as a Kiwi.”
France claimed the bronze medal in dramatic fashion with Tavite Veredamu's try in sudden-death extra-time securing a 29-24 victory over Fiji, their first win over the series champions since the Cup quarter-finals in Cape Town in 2015.
New Zealand and South Africa both have 41 points after two rounds, with the All Blacks Sevens sitting top on points difference. France's bronze medal has lifted them to third with 29 points, just ahead of Argentina, England (both on 24) and defending series champions Fiji on 23 points.
The series resumes on 25-26 January with the HSBC New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton, followed by the HSBC Sydney Sevens a week later.
FRANCE WIN BRONZE
France could not have asked for a better start to the bronze final, captain Jean Pascal Barraque, Pierre Mignot and injury replacement Antoine Zeghdar giving them a 17-0 lead before World Rugby Men's Sevens Player of the Year Jerry Tuwai got Fiji on the scoreboard just before half-time. Mignot's second try within seconds of the restart gave France a 19-point lead but Fiji can never be written off and when Veredamu was sin-binned, they pounced with two quick-fire tries from Sevuloni Mocenacagi before his brother Kavekini Tabu tied the scores with time up on the clock. Waisea Nacuqu couldn't add the conversion for the win and instead Veredamu scored the golden try to become France's hero.
France, bidding to reach only their second Cup final in South Africa and first since 2012, enjoyed the perfect start to the first Cup semi-final when Marvin O'Connor's strength enabled him to touch down under pressure from Rosko Specman. Ruhan Nel's try deep into added time tied the scores at half-time, before a horror bounce from a loose France pass allowed JC Pretorius to give the Blitzboks a lead they wouldn't surrender, captain Sivwe Soyizwapi adding a third before a late try from Jonathan Laugel made the final score 21-14.
Two early yellow cards put Fiji on the back foot in the other semi-final, captain Paula Dranisinukula joining Meli Derenalagi on the sidelines after a no-arm tackle in stopping Tone Ng Shiu from scoring in the corner. The All Blacks Sevens were awarded a penalty try and Baker crossed against the five men of Fiji, before Regan Ware's try but them in control at 19-0. Vilimoni Botitu gave Fiji hope on the stroke of half-time, but Baker's pass over the top to Knewstubb at the start of the second half ensured the All Blacks Sevens reached the final.
Earlier in the quarter-finals, hosts South Africa had given their fans a little scare when Alvin Otieno gave Kenya a 5-0 lead in this all-African affair. However, two tries from Nel, where he was stopped short both times but managed to quickly reach out to ground the ball, gave them a lead they wouldn't surrender, Selvyn Davids' try late on ending any hopes of Kenya mounting a comeback.
Argentina struck first in the second quarter-final through Rodrigo Etchart, only for Pierre Gilles Lakafia to shrug off a tackle to edge France ahead. Franco Sabato ensured Argentina went into half-time leading 10-7, but from there it was all France, Remi Siega dancing his way down the touchline before Paulin Riva wrapped up the 19-10 win and a first semi-final of the season.
Ireland, playing in their first Cup quarter-final as a core team, may have scored first through flyer Jordan Conroy, but Fiji found their groove and, offloading for fun, they scored five of the next six tries in the match, including a double from Nacuqu for a 31-12 victory.
New Zealand were in complete control of the last quarter-final with Scotland, Tone Ng Shiu scoring two tries in the first half as the All Blacks Sevens raced into a 21-0 lead. Baker added a double in the second half, before Scotland rallied with late tries to cut the final deficit to 35-19.
Defeat ended the tournament for Kenya, Argentina, Ireland and Scotland with the teams being ranked fifth to eighth in terms of series points depending on their point differential. On this basis, Argentina are ranked fifth ahead of Ireland, Kenya and Scotland.
USA FINISH NINTH
Ninth place was not what Dubai bronze medallists England and 2019 series runners-up USA wanted to be fighting for on finals day, but first-half tries from Maka Unufe, Danny Barrett and Carlin Isles saw the Sevens Eagles run out 17-12 winners.
Canada, meanwhile, claimed 11th place after tries from Pat Kay, Phil Berna, David Richard and Josiah Morra saw Henry Paul's side secure a 22-5 victory over Australia.
Samoa had finished fourth in Dubai, but had to settle for 13th place in Cape Town after powering past Spain 38-7, captain Tomasi Alosio scoring two of their six tries, the last of which was scored by debutant Kelvin Masoe, a Pacific Games 100m medallist earlier this year.
Invitational side Japan picked up their first win of the season to finish 15th, Ryota Kano scoring twice for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games hosts as they beat Wales 19-15. Both sides scored three tries, the pick of them an outrageous offload from Rio Dyer to captain Luke Treharne, but Japan's two conversions were the difference.