Turning on the gas in Vegas

2011-02-15 00:00

THE Blitzbokke powered to their first title in two years as they turned on the class to beat Fiji 24-14 in the final of the USA Sevens tournament in Las Vegas early yesterday morning.

Paul Treu’s outfit didn’t let their poor record against the South Sea magicians bother them, nor the fact that their opposition had earlier demolished HSBC Sevens series leaders New Zealand in the semi-final, but upped the ante and led from start to finish to win the title.

It was a personal triumph for Treu, who after winning the 2008/9 World Series title, had to endure a frustrating year last season when his side made six plate finals, but not one in the cup competition.

The coach, who spends so much time trying to innovate his team’s approach with the little firepower they have, will be well pleased with the effort over the two days in the American casino hub.

Considering the Boks had only a draw in the pool games last week in Wellington to break six losses in the last year to the Fijians, the victory was even more telling as it finally rid them of the monkey on their back.

Fiji were sensational in the semi-finals, but made a critical tactical error when they tried to play their inspirational playmaker Emosi Vucago after he left the field against New Zealand with a dislocated shoulder.

The Boks targeted his channel from the start, and sensing weakness, saw it pay off spectacularly as Cecil Afrika opened the scoring after Branco du Preez drew Vucago wide and then passed inside for the try.

Afrika’s contribution to this team cannot be underestimated, as the playmaker’s return really seemed to ignite the team and gel them into a unit. But kudos must also go to captain Kyle Brown, who was always involved in go-forward ball, while teenager Paul Jordaan excited with his pace and willingness to hunt down the tryline. Du Preez may have struggled with his size at times, but the nippy halfback is developing nicely alongside Afrika and was on hand as the Boks scored their second try, a crafty blindside move that saw him dive in at the corner.

It would always be difficult to keep a team like Fiji under wraps, and thus it wasn’t surprising as they began to break Bok tackles and big Watisoni Votu scored under the posts.

But the Boks responded, and after a few desperate but telling tackles, they managed the turnover and sent the ball wide to Jordaan, who first hesitated, then turned on the gas to beat a desperate Vucago on the outside before passing to Chris Dry for the third try.

This gave the Boks a 19-7 halftime lead, but Fiji soon brought that within check as Mitieli Nacagilevu brought them within a try of taking the lead.

But there certainly was something different about this Bok side as they forced mistakes on the Fijians, and then used the good ball inside the Fijian half to send Bernardo Botha over for a crucial try that eventually settled the game.

Botha had to stretch over in the tackle and did well to evade the defenders, putting the Boks out of range with just two minutes left.

With Fiji increasingly desperate, the Bok defence held out to claim the crown, and take their first USA Sevens title in Las Vegas.

Afterwards Treu was ecstatic about the victory, saying he was pleased with his charges.

“It was a great victory for us, and hopefully this will show my young squad that if they believe in themselves they can beat anybody in the World Series,” Treu said.

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