Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 11 July 2020

Dubai Sevens: Seabelo Senatla on the mark as South Africa emerge as champions

Blitzboks secure comprehensive victory over New Zealand, England take bronze

Seabelo Senatla scored a 75 metre breakaway try in the final, and Rosko Specman was named player of the match, as South Africa’s XVs’ stars made a triumphant return to the abridged format.

The Blitzboks took the Dubai Rugby Sevens title after a dominant 15-0 win over New Zealand in the final.

Having finished a relatively lowly fourth on the world series last season, the 2017-18 champions laid down a marker at the earliest opportunity in the new campaign.

Dubai is the first leg of the world series. Now they will head home to a country still basking in the glory of their World Cup win in the 15-a-side game for the second leg in Cape Town last week.

This tournament marked the return of Senatla and Specman from the longer format.

They will not be available for every tournament on the series, as they return to their Super Rugby franchises.

But the Blitzboks are likely to be bolstered regularly by returning stars, with the likes of Kwagga Smith and even Cheslin Kolbe, one of the stars of the World Cup , potentially set to return in the lead up to next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Specman acknowledged he found it hard dropping back into the abridged format, but it scarcely showed as he was arguably the standout player in the tournament.

“I must admit, at first it was tough, but then the guys pushed me and they gave me the space I can work in,” Specman said.

“You know, when I have the space, I am dangerous in that position.

“The crowd in Dubai is amazing. They always come out in numbers, whether it is for Fiji, New Zealand or South Africa. I hope we made you guys proud this weekend.”

The final saw the rare occurrence of the All Blacks Sevens side being held to nil, much to the delight of captain Siviwe Soyizwapi.

“We call ourselves a defence team, because we are proud of our defence,” said Soyizwapi, who celebrated his 27th birthday by scoring a try in the final.

“We said at the beginning of the week, we want to play as a team, and that is what we achieved this weekend.

“New Zealand was always going to be a tough challenge for us. There is a rivalry between the two countries. I am so proud of the boys.”

Scott Curry, the defeated New Zealand co-captain, said his side had performed well over the weekend, but were outplayed in the final.

“We played some of our best rugby in those first five games, and even in the last game, we defended our hearts out,” Curry said.

“We talked about working for each other in defence, and we did that right till the very end.

"In the last game, we didn’t have enough possession, and I think that was a telling factor in the end.

“I don’t know what the possession stats were in that final, but it felt like we were defending 80 per cent of the game.

“You can’t do that against a good side like South Africa.”

England took the bronze, against an emotional Samoa side who had excelled in beating Australia in the quarter-final earlier in the day.

Tomasi Alosio, Samoa captain, dedicated that win to his compatriots, who are coming to terms with a measles epidemic.

“We knew we had to dig deep against Australia, as they were the in-form team in Dubai,” Alosio said.

“I dedicate this win to the people back in Samoa and we carry the weight of the nation here in Dubai.

"I dedicate it to our people, our country, our families, and especially those suffering in the measles epidemic.

“In Samoan culture, we are big on family. It is about bringing it in together, especially during the tough times.

"We feel that our nation is right in behind us.”

Updated: December 7, 2019 09:33 PM

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