SOUTH AFRICA RACE AWAY TO FIRST DUBAI TITLE SINCE 2008:WERNER KOK NAMED PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT

SOUTH AFRICA RACE AWAY TO FIRST DUBAI TITLE SINCE 2008:WERNER KOK NAMED PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT 07 Dec 2014
•    Defending Dubai-leg champions Fiji finish third after losing to Australia in Semis and beatingoverall series holders New Zealand in the play-off
•    Argentina win the Plate title,Samoa the Bowland Canada the Shield
•    South Africa’s Werner Koknamed player of the tournament

December 6, 2014; Dubai, UAE: South Africa’s sheer speed helped them beat first-time Dubai finalists Australia 33-7 to claim theirfirstEmirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens title since 2008. They overcame the heartbreak of their 17-29 loss to Fiji in last year’s final, with the Aussies finding the lightning-quick Blitzbokke trio of Philip Snyman, SeabeloSenatla and Ruhan Nel too hot to handle.

Looking back at their successful campaign, South Africa captain Kyle Brown, who lifted the trophy, said: “Intensity in defence made the difference for us, in the ultimate analysis – we’ve had issues with that in the past, but it was brilliant this time, especially against New Zealand. There was desperation, not just hunger, in our performance – that showed just how badly the guys wanted it.’

There was more joy for South Africa following their crowning glory – Werner Kok was named the player of the tournament for his outstanding overall performance across both days of competition in the men’s tournament.

Speaking after the final, Kok added: “The guys stuck to their gameplan and stuck through with their attitudes. We wanted it more, and the guys just gave it everything - we took it a game at a time and focused on doing our principles right. Our focus from here on in will be purely on maintaining our consistency.”

The runner-up finish here was a huge improvement for Australia from their 2013 performance, though, when they finished in ninth position as the Bowl champions. It was also the first time since 2002 that they had got past the semi-final stage.

Calling it a successful outing overall, Cameron Clark said: “Nobody seemed to think that Fiji could be beaten, and we did that in the semi-finals, so that was fantastic. We weren’t quite there in the final, though, and South Africa are a very good side. Just our basic skills weren’t good enough – South Africa managed to capitalize on our errors and score tries. We are still a relatively young and inexperienced side, at least as far as Cup Finals go, so I guess it’ll be a learning curve.”

Earlier, in what was their first Cup semi-final tie against each other in 12 years, Australia and Fiji played out the match of the evening – one that was only decided in sudden-death extra time. Trailing 0-19 at one stage and 5-19 at the break, the Aussies came roaring back in the second period, and after it ended 24-24 at the end of regulation time, went through to their first Cup Final in Dubai thanks to Greg Jeloudev’stry from a coast-to-coast move.

Speaking after that match, Australia Coach Geraint John said: “When Fiji went that far ahead, I was worried, but all the boys who came off the bench for us changed the game. And we talk about it all the time – it’s not just about the starting seven, but about the whole squad. We scored right at the end of the first half, and at half-time spoke about keeping possession – that’s always the key. We didn’t get much of it in the first half, but made the most of it when we did in the second.”

Fiji Coach Ben Ryan said: “There was a lack of control in defence just before half-time. One bad pass, and we let them in for a try. They got a lifeline and made the most of it. We had two to three minutes of radio silence in defence, where we just didn’t talk.Our number one priority is to finish in the top four overall and qualify for the Olympics, but I know I’ve got a team good enough to win the title this season – and I know I keep saying this, but our biggest opponents are ourselves.”

Fiji, however, gained some consolation later, when they beat New Zealand, who have won 12 of the 15 overall titles so far and who had finished third in Dubai last year, 26-12 in the 3rd-4th place play-off.

Argentina won the Plate title at a packed Sevens Stadium tonight, beating Scotland 26-12 in the Final, while Samoa beat France 31-21 to win the Bowl, and Canada claimed the Shield after overcoming Kenya 19-12.

Before that, though, the second Cup Semi-Final, which was a repeat of the Commonwealth Games Final, saw South Africa, who were the runners-up in both the Dubai-leg and the overall series standings, thrashing defending series champions New Zealand 28-0 in what turned out to be a surprisingly one-sided affair.Kwagga Smith’s hat-trick, which came in only six minutes, complemented a superb defensive effort from the Blitzbokke, who kept out a team that had scored 24 tries across the weekend.

In the Plate Final, surprise package Scotland, who had stunningly upset Samoa in the Pool stages on Friday, were up against 2013 Plate winners Argentina. And it was the Scots who raced away to an early 12-0 lead before SecundoTuculet turned the tie on its head with two tries in a minute from close range after missed tackles. Completely dominant in the second period, the Argentines charged through to a 26-12 win, defending their Plate title.

The Bowl Final pitted 2013 Shield champions France against Round 1 runners-up Samoa. France took the lead in that encounter as Samoa’s tournament looked to be ending in more misery. However, the Polynesians drew on the immense reserves of strength that had taken them all the way to the Gold Coast Final, overturning a 14-21 half-time deficit to seal a 31-21 win.

In the Shield Final, Canada, who had finished 11thhere last year, were up against Kenya, who had finished seventhat The Sevens Stadium in 2013. Canada got off to a blistering start in that match, before hanging on to claim a well-deserved 19-12 win.

Fiji have retained their lead in the HSBC Sevens World Series standings with South Africa now in second. Australia has moved up to third with New Zealand in fourth. The full standings can be found at http://www.worldrugby.org.


 
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