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Brave Blitzboks’ Hong Kong hoodoo continues

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By Mark Etheridge

A spirited second-half fightback wasn’t enough as the Blitzboks’ hopes of winning their first ever Hong Kong Rugby Sevens title were flung aside by arch nemesis Fiji on Sunday.
The Blitzboks reached the Cup semi-final courtesy of a bruising 7-5 quarter-final win over Australia.
In the semi-final they quickly found themselves on the back foot as Kunatani went over when it seemed impossible that he would stay on his feet from some way out.
A second try soon after saw the the Blitzboks robbed in possession at the tackle and allowed the simplest of tries.
That saw the score at 14-0 and it could have been a whole lot worse as some incredible work by Kwagga Smith saw No 11, Rawaca being held up while over the line.
But the Fijians, who were outmuscling the Blitzboks in all contact areas, all but put the result out of reach when Pio Tuwai burst through the defences after the half-time hooter had sounded. Twenty-one points to zip and the Blitzboks had it all to do.
A measure of the Fijians’ stranglehold was that SA dangerman Seabelo Senatla barely touched the ball in the first stanza.
To their credit though the Neil Powell coached South Africans gave it everything from the restart and it was veteran Frankie Horne who went over just after a minute’s play. Good work by skipper Kyle Brown saw him unleashing the big forward who was part of of an overlap down the right.
Then it was the turn of Cecil Africa to squeeze through after a tap penalty taken by Chris Dry … 21-10 (and missed conversions were costing the Blitzboks).
With 2:30 to play Justin Geduld looked like he had the South Africans right back in things as he went over but the referee ruled the final pass from Brown to be forward, perhaps harshly so.
But still the Blitzboks’ never-say-die spirit rose to the fore and Senatla finally got into the action after a well-judged kick through.
At 21-15 some more good work from Brown saw the Fijians forced into touch just 22-metres or so out. The line-out afforded the Blitzboks the perfect opportunity to rescue the day.
Inexplicably though the line-out was botched, possession fell to the Fijians who booted the ball clear to touch … and the Blitzboks into the play-off for third spot later on Sunday where they will play Samoa who lost to New Zealand in the other semi-final.


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