South Africa stun New Zealand for rugby sevens gold

South Africa stunned four-time champions New Zealand with a nail-biting 17-12 final victory to seal Commonwealth rugby sevens gold at Ibrox Stadium.

Tries from Seabelo Senatla (2) and Cecil Afrika, one converted by Branco du Preez, were enough for the Springboks to inflict a first-ever Commonwealth defeat Sunday on the previously all-conquering All Blacks.

New Zealand, who were on a winning streak of 30 Commonwealth matches that stretched back to a Jonah Lomu-inspired side that won gold in the inaugural tournament in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, scored two tries through Sherwin Stowers and Joe Webber, Gillies Kaka nailing one conversion.

In front of 171,000 raucous spectators over four sessions, the tournament was again a massive boost for the abbreviated form of 15-a-side union that makes its Olympic debut in Rio in 2016.

“This feeling is the greatest,” said key Springbok playmaker Afrika. “We as South Africans are so proud. Rugby is our national sport, we always strive to be the best in the world.

“The Commonwealth Games is a one-off tournament. As a squad we want to take this forward to the Rio Olympics. I know we have made the people back home proud.”

New Zealand skipper DJ Forbes was magnanimous in defeat, saying: “It’s disappointing. For maybe 10 or 11 minutes of that 20-minute final we were just a little bit off pace.

“They put pressure on us but we had a chance to win the game. But it didn’t go to plan and that’s rugby.

“We are part of the legacy that has gone before us — we’d never been beaten. As a country we have a lot of chances to win medals but as a New Zealand rugby player it is disappointing to come second.”

In a hard-fought opening, full international Cornal Hendricks threatened for South Africa, while Afrika did well to track back and knock the ball out of a fast-advancing Kiwi wingman Ben Lam down the right.

The ‘Boks were then dealt a blow when influential skipper Kyle Brown was replaced after just two minutes with nasty-looking shoulder injury.

Kwagga Smith snagged down Lam straight after, but New Zealand skipper DJ Forbes was in support and laid off Stowers with a pass back inside, Kaka converting.

Bryce Heem was then yellow carded for stupidly kicking the ball away after the South Africans won a penalty pressing in the New Zealand 22m area, handing the ‘Boks a golden opportunity to capitalise.

But it was Lam who broke away after some teak-tough defence, scragged down by Branco du Preez.

New Zealand were caught napping after trying to run the clock down to half-time with Heem off the pitch.

A smart turnover by Senatla immediately put the South Africans on the front foot against an absentee midfield defence, the flyer getting up and latching on to the final pass from Afrika for a try under the posts.

Senatla got his second after the break, pressure building after a superb tackle and turnover by Afrika, Frankie Horne with a nice feint and offload out wide. Du Preez missed the conversion.

South Africa had their tails up, Chris Dry and Hendricks hitting the Kiwis hard in the tackle, and when Warren Wheatley turned over Forbes, Dry popped the ball to the supporting Afrika who scampered away for a try in the corner.

Unconverted, the score stood at 17-7, but just when the crowd thought it was all over, Kiwi Declan O’Donnell broke down the wing and managed to get a pass inside to Webber, who dotted down but missed the conversion.

Bok replacement Justin Geduld spilled the ball forward in a costly mistake with less than minute to play, but he was saved from embarrassment as from the resulting scrum Stowers did the same thing in midfield to hand South Africa a historic victory.

Australia were always in control against Samoa in the bronze medal match, two first-half tries by impressive flyer Greg Jeloudev setting them nicely en route to a comprehensive 24-0 victory.

Queensland Reds’ Liam Gill crashed over for a third try shortly after the break, and Con Foley’s great tap tackle on Afa Aiono kept the South Sea islanders pointless, Wallaby replacement Sam Myers crossing for a fourth late try.


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