HSBC Sevens World Series: Las Vegas Recap
Pic: World Rugby
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In what was yet another highly entertaining stop on the HSBC 7's World Series, South Africa's Blitzbokke once again showed their class to run away with the win.
Before the USA Sevens, there might have been question marks whether South Africa would manage to maintain their dominance in the HSBC Sevens World Series following the loss of top players such as Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla to the XV man game.
But like Smith with his Lions team and Senatla with the Stormers, South Africa had yet another very successful weekend in the desert of Nevada. In a close, but convincing 19-12 final win, the Blitzbokke prevented Fiji from securing their third back-to-back title.
During the semi-final, South Africa had to fight even harder to beat the brave and courageous hosts. The Americans cheered on by a packed Sam Boyd Stadium full of US rugby fans, finished the tournament with a much-deserved Bronze final win against New Zealand.
It was the fourth out of five tournament win for the Blitzbokke, resulting in a solid 24-point buffer at the top of the standings and the best-ever start to a series. Fiji managed to sneak into the second position, followed by England and New Zealand.
The Boks’ are almost unbeatable
There were moments like the semi-final when South Africa seemed to struggle a bit and almost lost the game. But the true quality of Neil Powell’s team is that they know exactly how to win the game even in the tightest of situations. After an awfully long period of finishing the series in second position it now looks as though the team has found the perfect balance of powerful and fast players who are not just enormously skilful but also brilliant decision makers. Even more worrying for the opposition is the fact that the Blitzbokke have not only a strong starting 7 but also true quality in depth. Anything else than a clear home run to win the series this year would be a massive surprise.
Don’t underestimate the USA
Sevens always seemed to be a game that suits the Americans perfectly - fast end-to-end action with a carnival atmosphere on the ranks. There is no doubt that the sport has a bright future in the USA, considering the serious investment and development. But for some reason, Parry Baker and his teammates aren’t able to win tournaments. However, Las Vegas proved once more how much quality there is in the team. In the semi-final against South Africa, the USA played like a world-class 7s team: smart, powerful and confident. They lost the game, but it was so close and if it were any other team, they probably would have won. Despite the frustrating defeat, a few hours later they beat New Zealand to claim Bronze. Yes, it might have been the home crowd which inspired the US boys to play their best rugby this season, but there is no doubt that this team hasn’t reached its pinnacle yet.
Specman is the man of the moment
Sometimes a game of Sevens can be decided by just one person. Player’s with exceptional pace and outstanding vision are able to take the ball and score from anywhere. South Africa’s Rosko Specman is one of a few who is capable of this. It was the second half of the final when he had such a moment of brilliance and scored out of nowhere to secure the fourth tournament win for his country.
Afterwards, Specman claimed the well-earned Player of the Final award and is now one of the most spoken about players on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Specman is wearing the No.11 shirt, which was previously worn by Seabelo Senatla who like him was one of these players who are able to decide matches on their own. With Senatla’s departure, Specman seems to be the perfect replacement for Neil Powell's men.
A look forward to Vancouver
The 16 teams have now just a few days to recover from a long and intense three-day tournament in Las Vegas as the series continues almost 1000 miles up north in Vancouver on Saturday. The Canada Sevens has proven to be a great success and an early sell-out indicates that this will be another huge sevens weekend.
Staged at the beautiful and modern BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, the sixth stage of the World Sevens Series is set to be another cracker with many questions to be answered. Although South Africa has been the dominant force this season, there is still plenty to play for during the remaining five stages.