Sevens

Senatla from villain to hero as Blitzboks oust Fiji

2017-12-10 12:30
Seabelo Senatla (Getty)

Cape Town - South Africa's beloved Blitzboks pulled off a comeback for the ages when they beat Fiji 31-26 in the quarter-finals of the Cape Town Sevens on Sunday. 

The Blitzboks were 14-0 and a man down after 90 seconds, but a spirited second-half performance that was capped off by a late Seabelo Senatla try got the job done in the end. 

The Blitzboks had been ruthless on Saturday, winning all three of their Pool A matches comfortably to be top of the group. 

But, due to a shock result where Canada stunned Fiji in Pool B, South Africa's reward was the toughest of quarter-final draws against the islanders. 

The crowd at Cape Town Stadium was as vocal as ever in the sweltering heat as they were treated to a knockout clash to remember. 

The Olympic gold medalists were on the board after just 30 seconds when they were awarded a penalty try because of a Senatla high tackle.

To make matters worse, Senatla was sin-binned for the infringement. 

The Fijians had their second just a minute later when the Blitzboks defence, short on numbers, was stretched. 

Amenoni Nasilasila capitalised on the gap and scored, and when the conversion went over the Blitzboks found themselves 14-0 down after just 90 seconds. 

It was going take a special effort to get back into it from there, and when a well-executed attack from deep saw Werner Kok go over in the left corner, Cape Town Stadium believed once again. 

It was short-lived. 

When Josua Vakurunabili scored Fiji's third and Vatemo Ravouvou knocked over the conversion, South Africa were 21-5, needing to score at least three more times for the win.

The Blitzboks were given a lifeline when Justin Geduld rounded off a move that had seen the hosts show good continuity and patience in the build-up. 

Cecil Afrika kicked the conversion from out right, and Fiji went into the break 21-12 ahead. 

The Blitzboks got off to the perfect start in the second half when an inch-perfect pass from Afrika released Senatla down the left. 

The Blitzbok wing finished off well for his 202nd Sevens try. The conversion went wide, but the Blitzboks were just a score away from a remarkable comeback at 21-17 down. 

50 000-odd people were then silenced when Fiji scored their fourth through substitute Kalione Nasoko, giving the visitors a 26-12 lead. 

The Blitzboks, though, would not go away. They kept going, throwing everything at the Fijians, and when Kwagga Smith broke through to score his side's fourth under the posts, the scoreline read 26-24 with just over two minutes to go. 

The game needed a hero, and it found one in Senatla. 

The Blitzboks megastar pounced on a loose ball and nobody was going to catch him. When he dotted down under the posts, the stadium erupted. 

The Blitzboks had pulled off a comeback to remember, and they will now believe they can go all the way. 

A semi-final against New Zealand awaits after they beat last year's Cape Town Sevens champions, England 17-12. 

Scorers:

SA

Tries: Werner Kok, Justin Geduld, Seabelo Senatla (2), Kwagga Smith

Conversions: Cecil Afrika, Justin Geduld (2)

Fiji

Tries: penalty try, Amenoni Nasilasila, Joshua Vakurunabili, Kalione Nasoko

Read more on:    blitzboks  |  cape town sevens  |  cape town  |  rugby
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