New Zealand may have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the final of the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament in Port Elizabeth at the weekend, but their 31-26 victory over the Blitz bokke showed the South Africans are a team on the up.
Spurred on by a crowd of about 30 000 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on the second day of the tournament, Kyle Brown and his men nearly pulled off what would have been the perfect gift to the loyal Bok supporters.
But with South Africa leading 26-24 it was not to be, as a New Zealander pounced on a loose ball and ran about 50 meters before passing to Tomasi Cama behind the posts, who scored to pull the game out of the fire for the Blacks, only a few seconds after the gong had sounded.
The Boks are strong at the breakdown and blessed with terrific defensive skills, while their speed on and off the ball often had the better of New Zealand.
The All Blacks’ sevens game seems to be built on being street-smart, exploiting the gaps and pouncing on errors, and they seem to be a side lacking speed and a bit of cut-and-thrust compared to former years .
But that’s what makes New Zealand a cut above, as they showed that there’s no substitute for experience in the Sevens.
The turning point in the game came when South Africa’s Steven Hunt, with the try-line at his mercy, knocked the ball on, only centimeters short of taking the game away from New Zealand.
The tournament billed as rugby’s biggest party certainly lived up to its billing, as fans dressed in various sporting regalia packed the stadium to enjoy the rush of sevens rugby.
A local band added to the occasion, drumming up support for the Boks, just before the final game of the evening.
The Port Elizabeth All Black fan club have received notoriety for their backing of the All Blacks especially after the last Tri Nations game played here against the Boks in August. They needed no reminder that the All Blacks lost that one to the Boks, so revenge was in their minds.
There is of course no love lost between both sets of supporters; but it was all taken in good spirit.
A deadly hush fell over the All Blacks supporters camp when with three minutes to go the Springboks were in the lead, with the New Zealanders having to score twice to win.
There was hope when the All Blacks scored, but New Zealand flags one could say were almost at half mast, until DJ Forbes’ outfit took advantage of a kick up field by the Boks.
They regained possession and then came the match-winning try at the death.
The band quickly faded out and so did the dee-jay; Bok fans disappeared, still miffed by the defeat. How did they lose that game?
DJ Forbes and his team did their customary haka bare-chested to appease their local fans, before one final wave of appreciation to the now noisy fans.
The only disappointing aspect was the play of Fiji, who stuttered and stumbled along merrily in this tournament.
But their 48-0 loss to Wales in the third-place final was a low point indeed – was this the team who had the great Serevi in its midst? Times are changing and Sevens is quickly becoming a global game.