Emotional South Africa sweep pool at home sevens
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — South Africa’s rugby sevens team rode a wave of emotion and answered supporters’ wishes for success by sweeping its pool games at its world series event on Saturday in the stadium named for the man who was on all their minds.
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was at its noisiest in the South Africa Sevens when the host team appeared for warmups and went on to defeat Canada, Spain and Kenya in succession for the loss of only seven points.
The crowd of 26,683 was also fiercely vocal when South Africa lined up in front of the other 15 teams on the field in mid-tournament to sing the national anthem, pause for a minute’s silence, and watch a moving video tribute to the beloved former president who died on Thursday.
“It’s been a very emotional week, if not for South Africa then the entire world,” captain Kyle Brown said. “There are elements there that we can use to drive us forward.”
South Africa, which hasn’t won its home event since 2008, faces Portugal in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
In the other playoffs, Fiji meet Samoa, New Zealand tackles Kenya, and Argentina plays France.
New Zealand, the tournament’s four-time defending champion, showed it was still smarting from its record 44-0 loss to Fiji in the Dubai semifinals last weekend as it brushed aside Portugal, the United States and Wales, scoring 134 points and conceding 14.
“Our coach Gordon Tietjens has put pressure on us to perform,” New Zealand’s Tomasi Cama said. “We really want to redeem ourselves after last week. It will be a tough match if we manage to meet Fiji in the semis.”
Portugal reached the South Africa quarterfinals for a second straight year by downing Wales 28-17 for the first time since 2008.
Fiji, the Dubai winner, took care of Australia 26-5, France 27-7 and wore down a plucky Scotland 29-12 from 12-10 down at halftime.
France eliminated Australia 19-12, Julien Candelon scoring the tying try at the end of the first half with a solo 70-meter run, and the winner in the second half with a burst through a gap in front of Australia’s posts. France hadn’t beaten Australia in a year.
Argentina knocked out England, a semifinalist in the first two legs, to win every game in their pool.
Argentina had beaten Samoa 26-19 and Zimbabwe 31-5, while England had lost to Samoa and beaten Zimbabwe and needed to beat Argentina by eight points to advance.
England rallied from seven down early in the second half to lead 19-14 with less than two minutes to go. But then England’s Jeff Williams, trying to force a break, was stopped and turned over, and Argentina’s Agustin Cortes ended up scoring behind the posts for a 21-19 win after the hooter.