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Olympics

South Africa rallies to defeat Fiji in extra time at Rugby Sevens tournament

South Africa’s Sakoyisa Makata scores against Fiji’s Kavekini Tabu in the Rugby Sevens tournament final Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.
South Africa’s Sakoyisa Makata scores against Fiji’s Kavekini Tabu in the Rugby Sevens tournament final Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Sakoyisa Makata scored in extra time as South Africa rallied to defeat Fiji 29-24 in the final of the Los Angeles leg of the Rugby Sevens World Series.

The Blitzboks were down 19-0 to the Olympic champions after 5 minutes before beginning their rally. Jerry Tuwai’s try put Fiji up 24-12 midway through the second half before Chris Dry and Branco du Preez responded for South Africa. It was du Preez’s try and conversion after the buzzer that sent the match to golden point.

“They kept on believing until the end,” South Africa coach Neil Powell said. “There were a lot of up and downs. The guys refocused and you cold see that in the second half. They did a good job at chipping away.”

Stedman Gans and Selvyn Davids also had tries for the Blitzboks, who won their second tournament of the season. They won the opening round of the series in Abu Dabai and placed second in Cape Town and Sydney.

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Vilimoni Botitu, Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Napolioni Bolaca scored Fiji’s other tries.

It is South Africa’s fifth title in an American tournament, which is the most of any team.

The emergence of U.S. rugby coincides with the maturation of speedy wings Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, who have become America’s first superstars in the sport.

“Just a relief and excited. We got the result at the end,” said Gans, who was Player of the Final.

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South Africa rallied for a 12-10 win over the United States in the quarterfinals and then defeated New Zealand 17-0 in the semifinals.

New Zealand remained on top of the standings with 93 points after finishing third. The New Zealanders edged Australia 21-19. South Africa has closed within four points after winning in LA, and Fiji has moved up to third.

Fiji’s Meli Derenalagi had the play of the tournament with a no-look pass to Tuwai for a try during its 43-7 semifinal victory over Australia. Fiji began the day with a 26-5 win over England in the quarterfinals.

U.S. places fifth

The U.S. Eagles hopes of winning their third straight tournament on home soil were dashed when South Africa rallied for a 12-10 victory in the quarterfinals. The Americans bounced back with a 24-5 win over France and then defeated Ireland 24-19 in the fifth-place match.

The Eagles have had a rough season with only one top-three finish through five events after having seven last season.

“It was a tough effort this weekend. It was important to bounce back after the quarterfinal, especially on home soil,“ Steve Tomasin said.


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