South Africa paid tribute to the passing of Nelson Mandela in the best way possible, beating old rivals New Zealand 17-14 in the Final of the SA Sevens. It was their first ever series win on home soil, at the aptly named Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
New Zealand shot off to a 14-0 lead as it looked like the emotion of the weekend appeared to get the better of the hosts, but an inspired comeback and brace by Branco du Preez changed that.
The All Blacks Sevens team were aiming for their fifth consecutive title in South Africa, but after a few days that saw the passing of the great Madiba, as well as former boxing world champion Baby Jake Matlala, the victory for the hosts came at a poignant time.
“It was a very emotional weekend for all South Africans,” said South Africa Sevens coach Neil Powell. “We realised that we needed to do it for his memory and for ourselves. We could only do it by playing as a team and playing for each other. It is an unbelievable feeling.”
Samoa beat Argentina to take third place, while Fiji beat France in the Plate Final, England won the Bowl Final and Scotland claimed the Shield.
New Zealand are still top of the overall series standing with 58 points, but South Africa are now just two behind them, with Fiji in third place on 48 points and England in fourth on 40 points.
The series now moves to the USA for the Las Vegas Sevens in late January.
Credit: Thanks to the IRB for the coverage
Day One highlights from the South Africa Sevens in Port Elizabeth
In the changeroom with the Springbok Sevens team, who dedicated their win to Nelson Mandela.
Credit: David van der Sandt/ABSA