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Classic Cape Town Sevens Moments

We unpack the best junior Springbok players of 2019

Classic Cape Town Sevens Moments

10 December 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

Classic Cape Town Sevens Moments

Excitement is at a fever pitch ahead of the biggest sporting event of the summer, the Cape Town Sevens, which kicks off at Cape Town Stadium on Friday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

There’s nothing quite like the Cape Town Sevens. It’s an experience, rugby’s rock festival, where the hits keep on coming and as this year’s World Rugby Sevens Series slogan says, #anythingcanhappen. This year’s event promises to be the biggest and best yet as for the first time ever, the women will enter the fray, extending the thrill-fest from two to three days.

The South African leg has always been one of the most popular stops on the series. First held in Stellenbosch in 1999, it moved to Durban for the next two seasons. George then served as hosts from 2002 to 2010 before the event moved to Port Elizabeth. It was when the tournament came to Cape Town for the first time in 2015 that it blossomed into a truly can’t-miss carnival-like extravaganza.

The Blitzboks have featured prominently in their home tournament, winning the inaugural Cape Town Sevens, finishing as runners-up in 2016 and bagging bronze over the past two seasons. Fresh off their series-opening win in Dubai, they will aim to ride that momentum to a second Cape Town triumph.

With anticipation mounting, we look back at some of the classic Cape Town Sevens moments:

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The opening day produced several massive upsets, one of which saw Kenya stun South Africa 14-12. The Blitzboks drew first blood through Seabelo Senatla, but Kenya hit back with tries by Collins Injera and Willy Ambaka to take a surprise 14-7 lead into half-time.

Chris Dry dotted down in the left-hand corner, but Justin Geduld’s conversion was wide going into the final three minutes. It looked as though Cheslin Kolbe had saved the day when he dived over in the last minute, but the try was disallowed after replays showed he’d knocked on before the line.

In the other major shock, Canada beat New Zealand for only the second time. Nathan Hirayama and Philip Mack crossed the whitewash before a brace by John Moonlight sealed a 24-12 victory for the minnows.

The inaugural Cape Town Sevens reached an epic crescendo as the Kyle Brown-led Blitzboks, cheered on by a capacity crowd of 52 000 fans, cantered to a 29-14 win over Argentina in the Cup final. The hosts held a slender 17-14 lead at half-time after a double strike by Rosko Specman and another try by Senatla.

It was all Blitzboks in the second stanza as they kept the Pumas scoreless and ran in two more tries. Senatla went over for his second before a thrilling clean break by a hot-stepping Kolbe culminated in a score for Rayno Benjamin that put the result beyond doubt.

Aside from a 33-7 loss to New Zealand that saw them finish second in Pool C, England had a tournament to savour. It was a particularly memorable weekend for Dan Norton as he became England’s all-time leading try-scorer when he dotted down his 221st five-pointer in the 19-17 pool win over Argentina, breaking the great Ben Gollings’ record.

Norton was at it again in the epic quarter-final clash against Fiji the following day. With the teams deadlocked at 26-all, England shipped the ball wide to Norton inside their 22, from where he skinned two defenders with a combination of mesmerising footwork and scintillating speed to win it for his team.

The Blitzboks dominated all comers heading into their semi-final showdown against New Zealand, including Wales, who they walloped 33-0 in the quarters. South Africa-New Zealand battles are traditionally tightly-contested and this crunch clash was no different.
Tied at 7-all at half-time, the hosts attacked from deep inside their 22. Specman collected a long, cut out pass from Werner Kok, whizzed past two forwards, darted inside the last defender and had the legs to go all the way to score the match-winning try.

A painful memory for South African supporters but a classic moment nonetheless, England edged the Blitzboks 19-17 in a thrilling Cup final. Despite missing Brown and Senatla through injury, it looked as though the hosts were poised to successfully defend their title after Dry went over for the opening five-pointer.

England, however, took the wind out of their sails as tries by Richard de Carpentier and that man Norton gave them a 12-5 lead at the break. The Blitzboks got off to a perfect start in the second half through a Specman try to level the scores but a relentless English attack led to a seven-pointer by Ruaridh McConnochie.

There was more drama to come as Kok scored a last-gasp try in the corner. The crowd erupted and then went silent as Justin Geduld stepped up to take the difficult conversion to take the game into extra-time. His attempt sailed wide, however, and England emerged victorious.

In what was his 35th tournament, Blitzboks bullet train Senatla reached the magical 200-try milestone in the pool game against France, which the hosts won 31-5. He joined just four other men in the 200 club, England duo Norton and Gollings, Kenya’s Collins Injera and Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora.

The Blitzboks pulled a rabbit out of the hat in their Cup quarter-final clash against Fiji. The Pacific Islanders scored two tries in the first 90 seconds and held a commanding 21-5 lead at half-time. The hosts showed heart to reduce the deficit to four before the Fijians seemingly killed the comeback with a five-pointer. Trailing 26-17 with just over two minutes remaining, the Blitzboks looked dead and buried, but Philip Snyman and company rallied once more and late tries by Kwagga Smith and Senatla saw them snatch a memorable win.

New Zealand ushered in a new era in 2017 with Clark Laidlaw taking over as head coach. After suffering an embarrassing 22-0 loss to USA on Day One, they were an afterthought heading into the Cup play-offs the next day. That soon changed as the All Blacks Sevens stunned the two pre-tournament favourites back-to-back, sending defending champions England packing with a 17-12 win and then beating the Blitzboks 19-12 before capping things off with a commanding victory 38-14 victory over Argentina in the final.

With a number of stalwarts switching to the 15-man code, a new-look Blitzbok team were experiencing teething problems, particularly on defence. They had a golden opportunity to deny New Zealand a spot in the Cup play-offs when they had an all but unassailable 21-14 lead with 30 seconds left on the clock. They imploded spectacularly, however, conceding two quick tries to allow the Kiwis to slip in through the back door.

The old foes met again in the Bronze final, after losing their respective quarter-final matches – the Blitzboks falling to Fiji (17-12) and New Zealand being swept aside by USA (31-12). This time, the hosts showed greater structure and composure with Kok and Dewald Human going over to help them claim a 10-5 win after the scores were tied at 5-all at half-time.

Fiji endured somewhat of a curse in Cape Town. They were the inaugural winners of the South African Sevens in Stellenbosch in 1999, edging New Zealand 12-10, and won two more titles in George in 2002 and 2005. The Pacific Islanders bagged bronze in the inaugural Cape Town Sevens but missed out on the semi-finals in 2016 and 2017.

They finally came good in 2018, following up the abovementioned win over the hosts with a handsome 29-15 victory over USA in the final to clinch their maiden Cape Town Sevens crown and break a 13-year drought on South African soil.

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Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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