16 July 2018

Africa: SA, France Are University Sevens Champions

South Africa and France were crowned the men and women's Fisu World University Rugby Sevens Championships in Swakopmund on Saturday evening after they both defeated Australia in the finals.

Australia were the defending champions in the men's competition, but they had already lost 26-18 to South Africa during the group stages, and in the final, South Africa was once again a class apart.

Their captain Rhyno Smith opened the scoring with an early try and despite concerted attempts by Australia to get back into the game, they could not get past South Africa's committed defence.

By half time South Africa were already 19-0 ahead, and although Australia struck back with two late tries, the result was never in doubt as South Africa claimed the title with a 24-14 win.

South Africa's coach Pieter van den Berg said the title meant a lot to them.

"It was a great game with great competition and we are just a bit overwhelmed emotionally at the moment and I'm glad we could do the country the honour it deserves," he said.

"This tournament is very important for us. These are the Blitzboks of the future and it's a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents on a stage like this, so I think for everyone involved it was an awesome experience," he added.

The South Africans had a strong squad, including two Blitzboks in Smith and James Murphy, and two SA Academy players in Impi Visser and Lungelo Gosa.

Besides their opening victory against Australia, they were hardly extended in the early rounds, beating China 66-10 and Malaysia 52-0 to qualify for the semifinals where they came up against a committed France team.

South Africa were rather fortunate to win the match 14-12 after a late French try was not awarded, which led to a fight between some of the players at the final whistle.

The final, though, was never in doubt as South Africa stamped their authority on the match from the start.

France won the bronze medal after beating Namibia 19-5 in the third place play-off.

Namibia gave a committed performance, displaying some great defensive work, while a try by Shareave Titus put them right back in contention with a narrow 7-5 deficit at half time.

Some poor handling errors in the second half, however, led to Namibia's downfall and France went on to score to more tries to seal their victory.

Earlier, in the semifinals, Namibia lost 38-5 to Australia.

Argentina finished fifth in the men's competition after beating Uganda 29-5, while China finished ninth after beating Zambia 31-12. The seventh place play-off between Sri Lanka and Colombia could not take place due to too many injuries in the Sri Lanka squad.

France, meanwhile, were in a class of their own in the women's competition, and lifted the trophy after a 24-7 victory against Australia in the final.

In the group stages they beat South Africa 43-7, Australia 15-3, Belgium 45-0 and Brazil 46-8, before once again thrashing Belgium 56-10 in the semifinals.

During the group stages, South Africa beat Australia 17-12, but the Australians turned the tables on South Africa in the semifinals with a comfortable 31-12 victory.

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