Fiji 7s defence wins them 2018 HSBC Cape Town Sevens

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Fiji 7s defence wins them 2018 HSBC Cape Town Sevens
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 09: Fiji players celebrate after winning the HSBC World Rugby Sevens tournament at the end of the final match between United States and Fiji at Cape Town Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

It was a great defensive effort from the Fiji 7s team, especially in their last two games of the tournament, that saw them claim the 2018 HSBC Cape Town Sevens title.

They scored five-tries-to-three, including a pair of doubles to ‘Captain Fantastic’ Kalione Nasoko and rookie Vilimoni Botitu. Opposing them, US player Ben Pikelmann grabbed a double of his own for the United States, with Carlin Isles bagging the other, in the sides second finals appearance, in a 29-15 loss to the triumphant Fiji 7s.

Fiji 7s defence wins them 2018 HSBC Cape Town Sevens

This will be Fiji’s first victory in the Cape Town event, and also their first since George 2005. For those new to the World Series, you should know that South Africa had two previous host cities before Cape Town; namely Stellenbosch and George.

The Cape put on another great show, with the Stadium full to overflowing. A loud and appreciative audience cheered on the Flying Fijians, who returned to the winner’s circle to put their 2018/19 series back on course.

Playing well too, the United States team were playing in their first ever back-to-back cup finals appearance but, like last weekend in Dubai, they just fell short. However, their persistence and consistency has been rewarded with them now sitting proudly on top of the points table after the first two rounds.

2018 Cape Town Sevens: the Lowdown

As they say ‘defense wins you tournaments’ and it was exactly what the Fijian 7s did to win in Cape Town. They silenced the home crowd in the semifinals, when they defended the last 90 seconds of the game with just six men, won a scrum and Alosio Naduva punished the Blitzbooutsprinted sprinted the flailing South African defense. With both teams were locked 12-12, it was finely balanced. It needed experience and self-confidence to be displayed – and Fiji answered that call.

In the Cup final, the strategy was to take Perry Baker out of the equation. They double-teamed and kept the ball away from the speedstick. Martin Iosefo was rattled too, with ‘Boom Boom’ Danny Barrett wondering how his winning group were found wanting. Madison Hughes; who was on fire last over this weekend, was left pondering ‘where did we go wrong?’

While the winning team can be praised, Ben Pikelmann took it to the Fijians. And he was surrounded by a team who had performed superbly right up to the final. But, it was all too little too late as the South Sea Islanders put their class forward for all competitors to see.  Signaling to fans of rugby sevens, finally, they have hit top gear.

Fiji head coach Gareth Baber speaking to worldrugby.org said, “It’s been a long time coming, for the Fijian 7s to win in Cape Town.

He and his group of players can all be super proud. Jerry Tuwai was outstanding all weekend for Fiji, so did captain Nasoko. Rookies Aminiasi Tuimaba continues to grow with every match, as does Meli Derenalagi.

Super-sub Mesulame Kunavula is finding his rhythm again, with Sevuloni Mocenacagi. All in all it was a great team effort – finals MVP described his team’s emotions, post-game.

In other results….SA fans delighted with Sevens smorgasbord

South Africa put up a great defensive effort of their own, to overcome the Kiwis 10-5 and win the bronze medal in front of a very vocal crowd, who were behind them all weekend. The close knockout match resulted in only three tries, that showed how resilient both sides were on defense. For the Rainbow NationQuinton Davids was the hero of the day, crashing over in the corner for the winner.

England had to dig deep to put away a very determined and feisty Spanish outfit, to win 14-7 and settle for fifth place. It wasn’t where Dan Bibby, Tom Mitchell or Dan Norton wanted to place, but they should be pleased to be ‘in the contest’.

Spain lost to Fiji in the Cup quarters but recovered brilliantly, beating Scotland in a huge result for Los Leones. England defeated the Aussies, who lost to their Trans-Tasman rivals and might feel they could have ended the weekend higher.

Kenya ended their campaign in the Cape with a 33-26 close fought victory over the Welsh side. On the other hand, Samoa fell just short in claiming their second Challenge Trophy in two weeks, with Argentina overcoming them 38-14.

Samoa – so unlucky to have not qualified for the Cup quarterfinals – just missing out on points differential the second week running. Yet their win over New Zealand almost forced the Kiwis out of contention. Manu Samoa fans will be glad their side are at least competing, and that was best demonstrated by Alamanda Motuga.

Sione Molia is tackled by Alamanda Motuga of Samoa during day 1 of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

His efforts in defence, as much as being a pivotal player in the Sir Gordon Tietjens coached side, helped his team on countless occasions. His reward, taking away a prize to match his stellar performances. Voted DHL Performance Tracker player of the tournament – and for good reason.

2018 HSBC Cape Town Sevens Accolades

LWOR Dream Team

Our rugby sevens guru has picked his own squad, as an alternative to the World Rugby Sevens Series selection (click here).

Ethan Waddleton (Eng), Will Muir (ENG), Amanaki Nicole (NZL), Alamada Motuga (SAM), Jerry Tuwai (FIJ), Aminiasi Tuimaba (FIJ), Francisco Hernandez (ESP)

DHL Performance Tracker – series standings

Fiji 7s reach top-speed in Cape Town – the Verdict

In our preview to the tournament, we asked ‘which teams will step up’ to perform at the highest level, week-in-week-out. The Fiji 7s men stood out brightest in the republic, as did the Blitzboks and the United States.

However, Spain was the surprise package for many. Not only did they reach the Cup Quarters but, they took England to the wire in the fifth-place playoff. The Pablo Feijoo coached side will grow in stature from this experience, with Samoa too who have shown consistency in the past two weeks.

Argentina needs consistency, along with Australia. Kenya, Scotland, Wales and Japan need more soul searching heading to the Hamilton leg of the Sevens Series, in New Zealand.

New Zealand will be strong at home, so will 2018 winners Fiji. On the other hand, the USA will try to maintain pressure at the top of the table, and may even raise that Cup for the first time. It would be fitting, as the Mike Friday team appear to have begun the 2018/19 season in the best form ever ….so watch out for more surprises, in the next few legs of the HSBC Sevens Series.

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Teams will head to the Christmas and New Year break now, but who will sacrifice their festive season Turkey and Ham, and come out victors in the next tournament?

See you all in Hamilton.

“Main photo credit”
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