'Tricky Ricky' emerges as Blitzboks reach Dubai final with stirring All Black comeback

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Ricardo Duarttee. (Photo by David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images)
Ricardo Duarttee. (Photo by David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images)

There's something about the Blitzboks and the UAE.

Sandile Ngcobo's charges' quest for a record-extending 10th Dubai Sevens title only has one hurdle left after they reached the final against Ireland with a dramatic 26-19 comeback victory over old foes the All Blacks on Saturday.

In a carbon copy of their earlier triumph over Samoa in the quarter-finals, the South Africans recovered from a 0-12 deficit at half-time to conjure up something remarkable.

Poor midfield marking and a lack of possession in the first half conspired against them as New Zealand cantered over the line through twice through the dynamic Caleb Tangitau.

The Blitzboks looked in desperate trouble when they fudged a penalty inside their own half in stoppage time, allowing the All Blacks to turn over the ball and go over in the left corner.

However, some outstanding defence on the line meant the ground was inconclusive and a TMO decision duly called no try.

That piece of galvanising determination turned into luck as the Blitzboks got their look-in from the first kick-off of the second half, a pat back by New Zealand handing Muller du Plessis the luxury of a clear corridor to the tryline.

Two minutes later, the South Africans were at it again, skipper Shakes Soyizwapi producing a brilliant, subtle lateral run that allowed impressive rookie Ricardo 'Tricky Ricky' Duarttee the space he needed to throw a splendid dummy pass and score.

Incisive counterattacking restored New Zealand's lead through Akuila Rokolisoa, but the Boks simply weren't going to be denied.

Having made their way back into the red zone, the South Africans received a major advantage when Amanaki Nicole was sent to the bin for cynical tap-down.

Duarttee, whose excellent form this weekend might've prompted him to run the tap penalty on his own, wisely decided to pass to Branco du Preez, whose familiar power saw him barge over the line.

The 24-year-old Duarttee could've sewn things up there and then with the conversion, but he bafflingly struck the attempt wide.

Undeterred though, the Blitzboks produced an excellent kick-off for Ryan Oosthuizen, allow them to keep possession and then hammer away at a compromised New Zealand defensive line.

Eventually, the dam wall broke as Shilton van Wyk dove over.     

Earlier, Duarttee, a journeyman junior player who sold his car at the start of the year to pay for his enrolment at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport Sevens Academy to revive his career, was simply sublime as playmaker and sweeper in scoring a brace of tries and generally causing havoc against Samoa

Dubbed his new nickname by the television commentators Sean Maloney and Karl Te Nana during the match, Duarttee was asked whether it will stick: "That's mine. I'll definitely take it."  

South Africa had looked in a slump after some suspect marking in midfield led to opening scores for Vaa Apelu Maliko and Uaina Sione that established a 12-0 buffer for the islanders.

Step up Duarttee.

After Samoa conceded a free kick at the next kick-off, the stocky but broad-shouldered exponent boldly took a quick tap and spectacularly evaded five defenders as part of a 60m solo effort that hauled the Blitzboks right back into contention.

His twinkle toes then proved instrumental again moments later in creating the necessary space for Muller du Plessis' try.

Skipper Shakes Soyizwapi should've capped off the South Africans' late dominance of the first half with another score, but he was robbed of possession in the process of scoring by a cheeky yet superb piece of dislodging by Maliko.

The psychological blow of that missing chance seemed to weight on the defending champions when the lanky Paul Scanlan went over early in the second half to regain the initiative for the Samoans.

However, the Blitzboks were clearly stung into action as they tightened up, stopped a leaky defence and purposefully kept their opponents in their half.

Duarttee was on hand to cap a memorable performance with his second try, again showcasing brilliant footwork, before floating the key pass for replacement James Murphy's match-clinching score.   

Kick-off in the final is at 17:26.

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